But I Won't Do That
TtH 100 Xander/Galactica: Prompt #51 – Sin
Timeline: “But I Won’t Do That” follows a day after “Cat. Bag. Exit. Any Questions?”
Summary: The end of the world has passed and Kara has finally confessed her sins to both Adama men. Forgiveness is The Old Man’s to give or withhold, but what the frak has he picked as penance?!
Spoilers through BSG Season One – “You Can’t Go Home Again”; BtVS Series
Just a note – This is where I depart from the canon timeline and description of Starbuck’s injury. Let’s all pretend that the time between YCGHA and Litmus is much longer than it is in canon. Ignore the fact that Roslin doesn’t have long enough to live to make this work, okay? Everything should work out… eventually.
Disclaimer Haiku: Battlestar Galactica does not
belong to me.
Tears pain my eyes.
To My Reviewers: Okay, I hate when authors do responses ahead of the story, so I promise not to make it a habit, BUT: I really appreciate everyone telling me that they liked the story and that the last chapter was confusing in parts. I need that kind of feedback since my usual beta is AWOL (and she thinks I should be working on my Stargate epic, but that’s another conversation entirely). I very much appreciate constructive criticism. Please continue to leave your comments and criticism as the story grows. THANKS!
P.S. Xander speaks in the next chapter! Woo-hoo!
P.P.S. Super dooper thanks to recent reviewers who moved me to pick this back up. See, feedback works!
Why… why are you telling me this? Why now?
It’s the end of the world, Lee. I thought I should confess my sins.
– Kara Thrace admitting to Lee Adama, her late fiancé’s brother, that she gave Zak a passing grade in Basic Flight when he didn’t qualify. Zak Adama died not long after in a Viper crash.
“Evening, Starbuck. What do you hear?” Lieutenant Kara Thrace, always the happiest and most pleasant of grounded pilots, gave The Old Man her first smile of the day.
“Nothin’ but the rain.”
“Then grab your gun and bring in the cat,” the Commander continued. His return smile was small but sincere, and Kara treasured it.
“Boom-boom-boom!” she replied with the last phrase of their private code. No one else could make sense of it, but no one else really needed to. Oh, she supposed they’d tell Lee one of these days if he kept asking… nicely.
She shifted fretfully on the bed as The Old Man glanced around the outside of her curtained enclave and sealed it. Her eyebrows rose as he settled into the single chair beside her bed and pinned her with one of his patented looks. This was either Very Bad News, like she would be crippled despite extensive knee surgery, or a Very Big Favor, as in ‘I need a kidney. How about going under the knife again?’.
The Commander gazed down her banged up, partially immobilized body and measured her wellness with his all-seeing eyes. There was no way for people lying on their backs to come to attention, but Kara would’ve liked some form of body magic to make her look healthy enough for whatever role he was contemplating. The Old Man had something important on his mind and he wanted her to be a part of it. She already knew she would do whatever he asked; his recent unspoken forgiveness was more precious than pride or practicality.
Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to want to start the conversation. Starbuck met his bottomless gaze and blatantly fished for information. “So. I heard you were in Life Station earlier today.” She interpreted his grunt as encouragement. “Must’ve been something really important to have the Doc, the President and you all down here at once.”
“You forgot about Colonel Tigh,” he rumbled noncommittally.
“No, I didn’t.” Starbuck’s cheeky I-hate-that-drunken-bastard grin could usually draw a reproachful lecture on military manners from the elder Adama, but not this time. So this really was important. And confidential, if his speculative silence was anything to go by.
She settled back to wait him out. Adama was the past master at patiently waiting for people to reveal themselves in the chatter they shoved forward to fill his silence… and Kara knew it. Once you’d let each other’s emotional wounds bleed all over each other for months, you learned to hear things said without words. This silence was his ‘assessing your fitness for an important mission’ mode and no matter what he asked for… it was his. She more than owed him for his support in the two years since Zak’s death. And his unanticipated forgiveness.
Commander William ‘Husker’ Adama sensed all of this and let it settle into his strategic back-brain. The Old Man knew he could ask penance of the deeply, privately religious Starbuck and he wasn’t sure some part of himself wasn’t exacting just that.
Burying Zak before they’d gotten to know each other as adults would forever be a scar on his soul. He could picture the grinning boy who flung himself headfirst at a long-absent father and the slightly more sober youth nervous about measuring up to ‘Husker’ and ‘Apollo’ Adamas’ records. But he’d never be able to relate to his son as a fellow man, a friend. Bill’s only consolation had been finding the forlorn woman his son had wanted to live with forever and adopting her in the wake of that tragedy.
Starbuck was an amazing pilot – probably his only equal in the sky after years of quietly watching from CIC – and a firebrand around whom his crew coalesced. Whatever Colonel Tigh’s reservations, Commander Adama knew the Galactica was lucky to have Lieutenant Thrace on board. But Bill was even luckier to have taken Kara under his wing. Rebuilding his life was less painful when he helped the woman who would’ve been his first daughter recover from that same senseless conflagration. Finding out that Kara Thrace was partially responsible for their shared devastation had brought him closer to a killing rage than he’d been in years.
So, no, he couldn’t say for sure that the assignment he was contemplating for Starbuck’s lengthly recovery wasn’t part payment for the forgiveness he couldn’t help but give her. He loved Kara like his own child now, and he needed her sassy, respectful support more than ever now that the world had ended and his prodigal son was making an effort to repair their relationship. He loved, therefore he forgave… but he didn’t have to be happy about it in the privacy of his own mind.
Bill shifted slightly on his chair and sighed, directing his gaze from the ceiling he’d apparently been contemplating to the sickbed beside him. Kara was watching him wrestle his own demons with no sign of her own. He smiled slightly and watched her face relax further.
“Well. So.” he said quietly.
“Well, then,” she replied in amusement as the pause stretched awkwardly.
“Hmph,” was his only reply. But he smiled as he did. He never could outwait her when she was unsure of his motives, which might surprise most of the people who knew his best fighter. “I have an assignment for you.”
Kara’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “I don’t know if Cottle told you, but I’m bed-bound for at least six weeks.”
Adama frowned. “He didn’t. I thought he said the knee surgery was successful.”
Kara grimaced. “He said, ‘successful is relative’ when I asked him the same thing. And, yes, I asked nicely.” She continued as Adama’s brows took an upwards trip in return. “As nicely as can be expected! The man just told me I’d be flat on my back for the next month and a half and that’s before I have to start physical therapy to get back in a Viper. He’s lucky I was still woozy from the anaesthetic.”
“*He’s* lucky?” Adama tried and failed to look stern.
Kara glared halfheartedly. “The point is, that’s the same knee I had trouble with before I entered the Academy. The one that made me drop out of the Pyramid draft.” Adama nodded slowly as she went on. “He said there was old scar tissue running crosswise from the new tear and the ligament was… fragile.”
Adama let the pause lengthen as his surrogate daughter began to pick invisible bits of fluff off her blanket. She wasn’t hard for him to read, either. “And was that when he told you you’d have to work to walk unaided again, much less fly?”
Her head shot up in surprise before her scowl caught up to her face. “I thought you said he didn’t tell you!”
“No,” he smiled sadly, “you just did.” He watched her struggle to swallow a number of outraged responses before she sighed a little and went back to picking at the blanket. Few people saw this frightened, vulnerable side of Starbuck, but it was one of the parts of Kara he liked best – the part without her formidable defenses.
Still, if she knew how much her nervous action revealed about her state of mind she’d be big brash Starbuck before he could get his offer out there. He cleared his throat minutely. “That’s exactly what I want you to do.”
“What? Tell people all about my medical condition?” Her smile was crooked and too-bright. “How is that an assignment?”
He snorted. Trust Starbuck to bounce back just as he wanted another second of sincerity. “No. The assignment is to watch what a certain person says and doesn’t say and report back to me. I need to know what he’s telling us, but more importantly what he’s not. I need you to be an expert in watching and waiting.”
“Spy! You want me to spy on someone?!”
“Keep your voice down!” His harsh demand was ten decibels below her outburst and provoked a mutinous frown as she went silent.
“Not spy, observe.”
“No, that means ‘spy’,” she hissed stiffly. “I’m not a tattle-tale, sir. I don’t carry gossip about my friends and bunkmates. Period. Sir.”
Adama sighed and rubbed a hand over his weary forehead. “Kara, I know that. I wasn’t asking you to. Listen to what I want first.”
They took a moment to measure each other again. He was tired and she was pained, but they’d never willingly show either weakness. He knew better than to ask her to compromise her startlingly strong principles and she knew better than to expect it of him. There was a reserve of trust there that even her recent confession couldn’t dent for long. She blew out her breath silently and purposefully relaxed.
“Sorry. Go ahead.” Kara laid back and watched his nonverbal cues intently.
“It’s about the meeting I had down here earlier with Doc Cottle, Madame President and Colonel Tigh. There’s someone here in Life Station we need to keep an eye on…”