The bottle goes around again. Lee swallows down the bitter taste and fakes a smile. This was part of the deal, part of the
price Tom Zarek wanted to get two prisoners off Galactica. Lee has to sit down with him and his buddies, be one of the boys,
drink and play Triad and take the jokes with good humor. It's harder than he expects, until the bottle's about half gone.
Then he almost doesn't care.
Zarek deals another hand- Mr. Zarek, Lee reminds himself fiercely, they're not friends and he doesn't have to
call him Tom- and one by one the others fold. Zarek stares at Lee; Lee stares at his cards. Seconds tick by. Glasses clink.
"Well, Captain Adama," Zarek says, and Lee probably should tell him that that rank's a moot point at this juncture, but does
he really want the man calling him Lee? "Are you in or out?"
That was the conundrum, wasn't it? "I'd like nothing better than to be in," Lee says, speaking carefully around the
liquor in his veins, "but I've got nothing to bet." It's true; the pile of markers he'd started the game with have been exhausted
by meeting this round's ante.
"Oh, I'm sure you must have some assets to bring to the table," Zarek says, and the others laugh. Lee clenches his
teeth and keeps his eyes fixed on the cards. A few hours ago he dismissed these men to Roslin as Zarek's "shady friends,"
and now they're laughing at him and he just has to sit and take it. His life is frakked beyond recognition these days.
"Like what?" he asks, refilling his glass again with a hand that just can't quite manage to be steady. "I don't have a career
anymore; as soon as my dad wakes up, I'll probably lose my right to the family name; my pride and self-respect took a hell
of a beating when I had to call you for help..." He shrugs, sloshing liquor over the table and not caring, feeling
the old red haze of temper he thought he'd purged years ago and not caring about that either. "What exactly would you like,
Mr. Zarek? My soul?"
They all stare blankly at him, and he realizes there's a decent chance that he's acting like a fool. His face burns. His
stomach hurts. He takes another drink.
"You need to use your imagination, Captain," Zarek says at last. "I'm sure if you apply yourself, you can think of some intangible
assets that are of value. Until then, though..." He takes some markers from his own pile and tosses them across the table.
"Allow me to spot you."
Lee stares at the chips. "Then I would owe you."
Zarek grins, and the other laugh again. Lee grips the edge of the table until his fingers hurt. "You already owe me, Captain,"
Zarek says. "And a Triad stake is nothing in comparison."
That is horrifying, and true, and Lee suddenly wants very badly to go lie down somewhere before he's violently ill all over
the deck. But he has a good hand, so he swallows again and reaches for the markers.
Zarek's hand lands on top of his. "Wait," he says, and if Lee didn't like the earlier mocking grin, this one has an edge
of satisfaction that makes him distinctly uneasy. "I thought of how you can pay me for the chips. Or it could be a down
"And what's that?" Lee asks, not pulling his hand away. It's smashed flat between Zarek's palm and the table top, and the
edges of the markers are biting into his skin, but he isn't backing down from this clown, he is not-
"Call me Tom."
Lee blinks. "What?"
"I notice you've gone to some lengths to avoid using the name. It's a little insulting, considering all you owe to me."
He shrugs. "So swallow your damn pride and call me Tom."
There's a strange roaring in his ears that's either his heartbeat, silent screams of frustration, or the alcohol swirling
through his brain. "That's what you want to let me stay in the game?"
Zarek sits back in his chair with a smile of cool triumph. "I just want to hear you say it."
Lee takes another sip and lets the bitterness burn his tongue.
The shady friends disappeared at some point. Lee couldn't quite recall when, but it didn't matter. He wasn't sure what did
matter, at this point, but it wasn't that.
Just Zarek at the table with him now, passing the bottle back and forth, laying down hand after hand of Triad. Two-man Triad
was a waste of time. That didn't matter either. Not much did, except the comfortable numbness spreading out from the alcohol
in his stomach, through his blood, to his brain. Making things quiet in there, for which he was profoundly grateful. He
was tired of thinking.
"Are you planning to play your hand?" Zarek asked sharply, and Lee dropped his cards to the table. Somehow, Zarek still seemed
nearly sober. That couldn't be right, with the way the bottle had gone around all night...but maybe Lee had lost count.
Anything was possible. The very fact that he was sitting where he was, playing Triad with Tom Zarek, was proof of that.
"You lose," Zarek said, smiling slightly as he put his own cards down. "Again. Are you even trying, Captain?"
Lee shrugged and slumped back in his chair, closing his eyes against the slight sickening spin developing at the edges of
the room. He somewhat belatedly realized that he was very drunk indeed; drunk enough that he was going to be sorry in the
morning. It was just so very hard to care.
"You never actually bet anything," Zarek pointed out. "We'll just add that hand to your tab, I suppose." Lee could hear
him gather the cards and shuffle, but he didn't deal again. The cards whispered against each other and Zarek's hands, over
and over, a low constant hiss. "It must be tough."
"What?" Lee opened one eye, but that was even worse; he noticed only that Zarek was smirking at him before closing it again.
"Well, by the Scriptures, Zeus was a terrible father. He left his children with their mothers and never took any interest
in them." The cards fluttered, whispered, hissed. "If they came looking for him once they grew up, then he'd accept them
as his own. But that's a hell of a way to have to earn a father's approval, isn't it, Apollo?" He drawled out the call sign,
twisting it into something Lee didn't quite recognize as meaning himself. "Fight your way up on your own to show the bastard
you can, and he greets you with a hug and your very own piece of Olympus. Command of a fleet of mortal slaves...or an air
group, as the case may be."
"You take all that stuff too literally," Lee mumbled, shaking his head. Not everything could be tied back to scrolls written
thousands of years before, no matter what Roslin and Elosha and Zarek thought. He was surrounded by true believers, and what
he wouldn't give to be back in the barracks where days could go by without anyone mentioning the Lords exept to take their
names in vain.
"Another drink?" Zarek asked. Lee shoved his glass across the table automatically; he was here on Zarek's indulgence, after
all. The man could sell him and Roslin back to Tigh at any moment to buy some influence in the Fleet. You already owe
me, he'd said earlier. Too frakking bad that was true.
"It was the only way," he said, and Zarek nodded in cool understanding, as if he could read Lee's thoughts. Or maybe just
his face; that was one of those things that went along with being a cult-figure terrorist leader, wasn't it? That terrifying
ability to read people.
"It was," Zarek agreed, gently pushing aside the glass of liquor that Lee had forgotten to drink. "But I have to wonder...what
are you going to do now?" He didn't wait for Lee to fumble for an answer; one of Lee's opinions of the man that hadn't changed
was that he loved the sound of his own voice. "Even if you do keep Roslin away from our esteemed military dictatorship...even
if she does somehow get us to Earth before she dies...what are you going to do, Captain?" He stood and began to walk
slowly around the table, crossing behind Lee and beginning another circle, his eyes fixed on Lee's face.
"You won't be a pilot anymore, that's for sure- there's a limit to how much insubordination they can forgive. I think you
said yourself that when your father wakes up, he probably won't want anything to do with you." He passed behind Lee's chair
again, closer this time. "Your fellow soldiers...well, they didn't mind you threatening to shoot Colonel Tigh, everybody
hates that son of a bitch. But abandoning your post, running out on them..." This time he stopped, resting his hand
on Lee's shoulder. "You've lost your duty, your family, and your friends, I think, Lee. What's left?"
Lee opened his mouth to answer, but only a dry, choking sound emerged. His head was spinning; he hadn't thought that far
ahead, because he couldn't and still function in the here and now. But having it all laid out like that, cold hard
truths that peeled everything away and left him alone...
"Just you," Zarek mused, absently rubbing his thumb against the back of Lee's neck. "Just Lee. And is that...is that enough,
do you think? Is that enough to live on?"
"I don't know." Lee felt his head bowing slowly under the gentle pressure. Easier to go along. He was so tired of fighting
every last thing in the universe.
"Well, you still have your principles," Zarek pointed out. His hand slid away from Lee's shoulder, down his arm, to gently
catch his elbow and tug him to his feet. He swayed a little as he stood, and Zarek took hold of the other elbow as well to
steady him. "They're a cold comfort, aren't they? Now you know what it really means to be a prisoner of conscience. It's
not being put behind bars, it's knowing that they've taken everything from you but your beliefs...and that those might not
be enough after all."
"What do you do?" Lee asked, his chin still tucked to his chest, his eyes closed. Zarek was turning him, gently but insistently
manipulating his body like a doll's. "How do you fix it?"
"You can't, really." They were facing each other. Zarek's hands tightened on Lee's arms, and he opened his eyes to look
into Zarek's, dark and cool and calculating and very close. "But after a while, you learn to live with it. You learn how
to...borrow what you need, from somebody else."
And Zarek kissed him.
Lee's head rocked back, away from the pressure, but Zarek followed, insisting until Lee gave in again. He stood passively,
letting Zarek take what he wanted, thinking in a distant and foggy part of his mind that it didn't matter anyway. Nothing
mattered, because there wasn't enough of him left to care. Just Lee, hollowed out and alone with his principles, and they
couldn't fill him.
Zarek was moving forward, nudging Lee back step by step until the small of his back hit the table. He let Zarek's weight
carry him down, on top of the cards and scattered markers. He felt dampness spreading under his shoulder and realized he
must have knocked over either the glass or the bottle. Waste of good alcohol. It was soaking into his hair, too, and he
tried to move his head away from it, but Zarek held him still with a hand cupped around his jaw. "Shh," Zarek whispered,
"shh," and his other hand was sliding down Lee's body to his trousers, popping the button and pulling the zipper down.
That same foggy part of Lee's mind knew that he should be fighting this, should refuse. But he was tired of fighting, and
fighting Zarek didn't seem to work anyway. Lee thought he'd won in their first confrontation, aboard the Astral Queen,
but Kara was right; he hadn't finished the job, he'd left Zarek enough ground to stand on. Once he'd found his feet, there
didn't seem to be anything that could keep him from what he wanted.
Borrowing, Lee thought, a wave of dizziness going through him as Zarek got on his knees in front of him. He's borrowing
something from me. Strength, maybe, or certainty, or just will; he didn't seem to have any left for himself as Zarek
took his cock into his mouth. Whatever was being borrowed, he might never get it back. It was so easy to lose things out
here, for them to just slip away, disappear into an infirmary bed or a Cylon raider.
His body wasn't his, but Zarek's tool, whimpering and shuddering and obediently coming to climax while his mind drifted somewhere
blank and empty and very far away. Gods, why hadn't anyone ever told him that it was so easy not to fight? He never would've
become a soldier, if he'd known.
Zarek's hands were moving him again, gentle and inexorable, a force of nature. Wind and tide. He moved with them, turning
onto his stomach, pressing his face against the surface of the table until the bridge of his nose ached. He knew what was
happening, and he knew that Zarek was moving slowly to give him every opportunity to protest. But he didn't know if protesting
would change a damn thing. And that was the admission that broke something inside of him, finally, the last illusion that
nothing else had touched. He wasn't a step ahead of anything. He didn't have a plan. He was lost, in free fall, and he'd
been caught in the orbit of a stronger force.
A stronger force.
He shuddered as Zarek entered him, not in resistance but resignation. He'd followed his instincts. He'd chosen a side.
And it wasn't enough. His father was wrong. But Lee would never tell him that; it was something you could only learn by
He was numb enough with alcohol that it didn't hurt as Zarek thrust into him; he knew that it should, and that it would, later.
He was glad that his body would remember, and remind him of the truth instead of letting it vanish into the tense tedium
of life on the run. Pain would bear witness, and not let him forget that he had followed his heart and lost his self, and
that the coldest prisons of all were built from choice.
It was a disc of security camera footage, slipped in among the neatly filed logs of sensor data from Kobol handed over by
the Astral Queen. A small label noted that it was for Commander Adama's eyes only. Gaeta had learned a long time
ago that being nosy about notes like that was a good way to get yourself on double shifts for a week. He had it delivered
to the Old Man's cabin and washed his hands of it.
Adama would be profoundly grateful for that, later. Thank the Gods for a professional crew, even as he had to curse Them
for allowing the series of events that had brought him and his family to where they were. To the aching scar on his torso
and the agony in Kara's eyes and the data on that security disc.
The footage had been neatly edited. Someone on that prison ship was skilled at trimming and ordering data, and Adama could
only pray that it was Zarek himself. He didn't want to think about anyone else seeing that footage. Seeing what had been
done. But someone had stripped the sound from the first part of the disc. Adama had no idea what was being said as Zarek
circled the table and Lee closed his eyes, or what Zarek was whispering in Lee's ear as he helped the young man out of his
chair. As he kissed him. As he...
Adama knew his heart rate was spiking into a dangerous zone. He sure as hell wasn't calling for a doctor, though. Not now,
not with that filth unfolding on his monitor and paralyzing his mind. He'd had a few suspicions, of course, dark thoughts
late at night as to the source of Lee's shift in loyalties. He'd thought that perhaps his dedication to Roslin was based
on something a bit more...biological than airy ideals. He'd thought it was the President. Laura.
But it was Tom Zarek kissing his son on the security feed, Tom Zarek making him gasp and shake, and then Tom Zarek pressing
Lee into the table and taking him. And in the footage's eerie silence, Adama had no way to know if the movements of Lee's
mouth were expressing horror or pleasure. Lee's eyes were closed, his face blank in the moments when it wasn't turned away
from the camera. As much as it hurt to think that his son had run from Galactica, it was worse that he might have run to
Tom Zarek. But even worse than that...a thousand times worse than anything; even the possibility was ripping him up inside
like a fresh barrage of bullets...was the idea that this had happened against Lee's will. That Zarek had...forced him. Hurt
him. Distantly, he wondered when in all of those years in prison Zarek had learned that the cruellest way to hurt a man was
to inflict the pain on his children. The suffering was magnified a thousand times across the blood.
The sound resurfaced after Lee had straightened from the table, straightened his clothing, and stumbled from the room, wiping
his face on his sleeve. Zarek watched him go, and Adama was startled by the sudden soft laughter coming from the speakers.
Zarek ran his hand through his hair, glanced up at the security camera, and smiled.
"Well, Commander," he said. "If you're viewing this, it means you must have survived. I think you will. You're a tough
old bastard. It also means that our attempt to gain our freedom has failed. You won." He was openly grinning now, glancing
down at the floor and then back at the camera as if the joke was just too wonderful not to share. "I'm sure you've either
killed me or locked me away in your brig for a thousand years. The privilege of the victor. But I have to thank you, Commander,
for the chance to get to know your son. He's a good man, your Lee. Stubborn and a little hotheaded, but...innocent, at the
same time." Adama's hands clenched on the edge of his desk, and now there was no question, this hurt far more than any bullet.
"If I'm not dead, Commander, I'm sure your greatest desire is to punish me somehow for this. But in order to do that, you'd
have to admit that it happened. You can't just blow prisoners away. Not on Galactica." Adama thought of Specialist Cally,
huddled in her cell, and knew that he didn't have the wild strength that had let her pull the trigger. He was hollow, and
broken, and old, listening to Zarek's mocking voice continue on.
"And besides, you can't know the whole story. Not unless you ask Lee. And I'm fairly certain that your relationship is not...conducive
to such conversations. In general." Zarek shook his head, still smiling, and walked away from the camera. He glanced back
over his shoulder as the door opened. "Congratulations on crushing the rebellion, Commander. Victory is sweet, isn't it?"