A/N: Ok, kids, here's where it gets a bit more interesting. Dialogue! Woohoo! And a change from what we just didn't see to what never actually happened in canon. Please let me know if you think I've gone out of character; I hate that more than anything. ~~
The following day is, by some miracle, dry. They find just enough scraps of wood to build a decent fire, so Kara spits on her hands and gets to work. In the end, only five of them gather close to the blazing warmth. Zarek and his flunky have built their own campfire—their own little hotbed of rebellion, Adama thinks sourly. Helo and the thing with Sharon's face have built a small shelter some distance away, and they sit huddled in each other's arms. Adama notes proudly that the Chief sits with them, chatting unconcernedly, one hand resting casually on his rifle.
Returning his attention to his immediate surroundings, Adama stifles a snort, wondering at the speed with which the salvation of mankind has become his number two priority on this ill-conceived excursion to a cursed planet. There is a very short list of things that matter right now: the firelight dancing in Laura's hair; Lee reclining on his elbows, smiling up at her as they share a joke; Starbuck out cold, her head lolling on Laura's left thigh, a picture he'll take to his grave (Kara would only cringe in abject humiliation, and this is not blackmail material, this is perfection); Billy snoring softly, curled up on himself, seeming all of ten years old as he shifts fruitlessly back and forth, trying to get comfortable on the Commander's rucksack-turned-pillow.
Adama looks up as silence suddenly descends like a hawk diving on its prey. Laura and Lee are both fixed on him; he realizes he has been the topic of conversation between them. It's not so surprising. Other than an inherent goodness and a desire to serve, to be needed, they have very little else in common.
Lee skips deftly over the awkward pause. Or tries to. "So, Dad, know any good ghost stories?"
Adama gives him a rueful smile. "Ghosts? Don't you think we have enough of those, son?" The question is as gentle as he can make it, but Lee flinches and turns his head away. Of course, it is Laura who rescues them.
"Tell me about Zak?" The question brings only a mild ache, as opposed to the punch in the face it would have been only a few months ago. He wonders how she knows that.
"He was a good kid. Never ready for half the things he stuck his nose into. Good head on his shoulders, but so damned curious. You would think this guy here was the ringleader, but Zak dragged his brother into one sorry mess after another. Somewhere around seven or eight years old, and the two of them come sauntering up to the house, dripping with mud from head to toe. Zak's explanation? He was trying to catch a fish in the stream. With his bare hands. And what happened was the only thing that could have happened. Lee decided his brother was going to drown—in two feet of water—and leaped in after him. Carolanne and I actually discussed tying him to his bed after that, whenever we needed a break. Things might have been simpler if either one of us had followed through."
"He was the same as a teenager," Lee continues, and although the implication is clear (when you weren't around), the tone is free of accusation. "Mom had a hell of a time keeping him in line. Not that he ever really went off the rails; he was just the most stubborn frakker on the face of the planet. I really think reverse psychology was invented just for him. Things were different, though, after he met Kara. I could tell, that first time, the minute I walked through the door. She was the brightest star in his sky, and he was navigating by her. Which just goes to show," he picks up the pace again, seeming to sense the moment charging itself into a bolt of destabilizing emotion, "I mean, anyone using Starbuck as a steadying influence—"
"Hey," emanates a sleepy voice from Laura's other side. "I resemble that remark."
Adama grunts a laugh, and as he catches Roslin's eye across the flames, his breath staggers. Her expression is open and clear, just in this short step out of time, for once not mired in the griefs and terrors that dog all their heels, shadows brushed away by this fire-lit circle. Everything she is and represents is sparkling there, and he knows exactly why he's following her through the gates of Hell.
When by all the Lords of Kobol and their holy front teeth did he fall in love with Laura Roslin? It's not bad news, per se, it's just his godsdamn job to keep what's left of humanity breathing and in one piece, that's all, and she's only the frakking President. What might happen in twelve hours is anyone's guess, never mind next week or next month. Where are they supposed to find the foundation, or the time, for romance?
Then again, that isn't really what this is. Dating and relationships are things people go after, things they make time for, but this is happening almost in spite of them. This is happening because no one can stop it.
Except Lee, apparently, who shifts forward and raps his knuckles against his father's forehead. "Hello? Anyone home?"
"Smart ass," Adama grumbles back. He is grateful to Lee, though, for reeling him back in. "Just thinking. About what all this might lead to, if we're lucky. Earth. If it'll be like Caprica, like the Colonies aren't gone, just waiting for us to prove we can earn them again. There's one thing this war with the Cylons is good for, and that's making us think about why we deserve survival. I guess each of us"—his eyes drift again, this time in the direction of the Boomer double—"human and Cylon, is going to have to decide that for him- or herself."
"Well, the two of you"—Starbuck points at him, nods her head in Roslin's direction—"are pretty indispensable, considering you're personally liable for all our collective asses. Congratulations. Don't know about this guy, unless he's interested in taking a bullet for me."
Roslin gives her a playfully quelling look and pats Lee on the shoulder. "He's come in pretty handy so far. And he's very good at shutting up Zarek, which is always a plus."
"So say we all," Starbuck adds fervently.
Adama is concerned to see that Lee isn't smiling; he seems to be struggling with words. "Spit it out, son."
"That's not the reason," Lee whispers. "It's not because you're the Commander in charge of the Fleet's safety; it's not even because you save our lives every day, in a hundred different ways, even if it's just sustaining our faith in a better future." He pauses, swallowing hard. "You…you came after us. You're here. And I'm damned glad; I was not looking forward to doing this without you. And believe me, Dad, I know how hard that was for you—I know you. And you didn't leave us behind, not when you had a choice to keep us together. There are so few of us left…we have to stay together. Let's…let's not do this again. Ever."
Adama lets the tears burn his eyes for a second, just long enough for Lee to notice, before he blinks them away and stretches his hand out to his son, interlacing their fingers. "Yeah. Let's not."