I come from down in the valley
Where mister, when you’re young
They bring you up to do
Like your daddy done
The image in the mirror was flawless, perfect, precise as if stamped from a mold. He could have stepped right out of the
regs. He slowly reached up and ran the comb through his hair again. His hand was only shaking a little. He tightened his
wrist until it stopped.
“Look at you.” His mother sat on the edge of the bed, shaking her head and smiling even as she dabbed a handkerchief
to her eyes. “My little boy.”
He smiled at her reflection in the mirror-- tight-lipped, a regulation smile-- and tugged at his uniform collar. It was already
precisely where it belonged, so he tugged it right out of place and had to readjust the whole jacket over again. His hands
were clumsy and numb. If they were still like that when he got into the cockpit, this was going to be a disaster.
“Your father is going to be so proud.” Caroline Adama murmured, and Lee shut his eyes for a moment.
“If he shows up.” He forced the words out on a huff of air, hoping they sounded detached and ironic but fairly
certain that petulant was a more accurate term.
“Oh, of course he’ll be here.” She got to her feet and stood next to him in front of the mirror, cool and
elegant in a gray dress. Lee’s mother was never less than polished; the two of them could have been plaster casts of
a civilized ideal. “He wouldn’t miss this for all of the Colonies on a platter.”
“My graduation from flight school? No. High school, on the other hand...” He reached for the comb again, fumbled
it in his clumsy fingers, and allowed her to take it from him.
“He couldn’t help that,” she scolded him gently, drawing the tines down the part in his hair that had already
been re-made so many times his scalp stung. “And you know he felt terrible about it.”
He just nodded, clenching his jaw to hold back his voice and any rebellious words that might try to escape. The time for
rebellion was so long past it wasn’t funny. Things were orderly now. As they should be.
“Seeing you in this uniform,” she muttered, setting the comb aside and brushing her hand across the heavy fabric.
“He can die happy.”
“Not until Zak has one too,” he corrected her, and she rolled her eyes in acknowledgement, walking in a tiny circle
around him and tugging at the hem of the jacket, disturbing and readjusting the fit as he already had a thousand times.
“It makes you stand so straight!” she laughed, stepping back and blinking at him as if she’d never seen
such a thing, one hand coming up to press against her cheek.
“It’s meant to,” he said, staring at the figure in the mirror, the grim young man in Fleet blue. “A
lot comes with one of these uniforms-- years and years of history and pride and tradition--” His stomach twisted and
he clenched his teeth; he was not going to be sick, not now, not just a few hours before he graduated and pinned on
the wings that had meant everything since he was old enough to say the word Viper. “Duties and obligations...well,
you know, Mom.”
“Yes,” she said in an odd little voice, catching his hand and squeezing it gently. Her hand was cold, and shaking
a little. He released it and she turned away, wiping at her eyes again and speaking with forced, exaggerated lightness.
“Where is that brother of yours, anyway? He should be here by now.”
He should tell her not to worry, that it was just a uniform, that it didn’t mean the things she was afraid of. There
wasn’t a war and there wasn’t going to be a war. His father’s Fleet had made sure of that, forty
years ago. Putting on Fleet blues meant something different, these days. But it wouldn’t do any good to talk about
any of that.
“He’s probably down in the commissary making friends,” he said, putting the comb away in his kit and closing
it firmly. If he went over his hair one more time, he’d probably make himself bleed. “Mr. Charming.”
“Lords, tell me about it,” she sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed again. “He’ll come running
in two minutes before we have to leave, as always. Why don’t you tell me some more about the maneuvers you’re
flying at the ceremony?”
He didn’t question the shift in conversation, just recited the flight plan dutifully, visualizing each turn and roll
with precision; at this point he could have flown the damn thing in his sleep. The afternoon unfolded before him in his
mind-- speeches and roll-call and the almighty wings on his jacket, then the hasty exit of all the new pilots down to the
flight deck while the military band played some frenzied medley of pomp and circumstance. All the fussing over the uniform
would be left in a crumpled heap as he changed into his flight suit. Gloves and helmet and the metal sealant ring around
his neck-- he swallowed, the pressure of his uniform collar against his throat suddenly far too tight. I can’t breathe.
“Lee? Are you all right?” His mother was looking at him with concern, and he wondered if he’d cut off in
the middle of the flight plan, or a sentence, or an actual word.
“Fine,” he said, forcing up a smile that hurt. “Sorry.”
She relaxed a bit, looking down and smoothing her skirt over her knees. “Leading the squadron,” she said, shaking
her head and smiling. “You know, your father didn’t lead the squadron at his graduation.”
He looked at the mirror again. Pressed and perfect. Straight from the regs. “I did know that, yes.”
She patted his arm. “He’s going to be so proud of you.”
“Of course,” he said, touching the place where, in a few hours, the wings of a Viper pilot would rest. “I’m
everything he wanted me to be.”
Now these memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse?