Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Four Deaths Dodged
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1. "33"
She's starting to hate her flight suit. It's a stiff, battered second skin, and every time she puts it on, she feels a bubble of stale, foul-smelling air close around her. Flop-sweat, from too many near misses. The suit reeks of it.

Right now she's peeling it off, and that feels so good she could cry. She can get a quick shower, wash the sweat off her skin and out of her hair. Maybe put on a clean set of tank tops. Maybe not-- who knows when they'll have enough time to run laundry again?

Who knows if it will matter?

She bites her lip and slams her locker. No time for that. She has...

"We have twenty-eight minutes." He's standing in the doorway, still in his own flight suit, his eyes startlingly bright-- stimmed as hell-- in black rings of exhaustion.

"Gotta be on deck and doing pre-flight eight minutes early," she points out, her voice hoarse and dull. "CAG'll kick our asses if we're not."

"How do you know what the new CAG will do? I'd be more afraid of Starbuck."

"He's the Old Man's son. He'll kick our asses." She shrugs and opens her locker, hanging the towel back up.

"Fine. We have twenty minutes." He hesitates, staring at her. "And we're still alive."

She nods and slams the locker again. After that last round, three more racks are going to be empty if they're ever allowed to sleep again. But the two of them are still alive. "Let's go."

He tangles his hands in her hair and kisses her, until she pulls away and fumbles with the zipper of his flight suit. "Up or down?" she asks, glancing at her bunk. He laughs and pulls his arms free, letting the suit slide off.

"If I lie down, I'm not going to be able to get up again."

"Good point." She sheds her shorts quickly and braces her arms against his, lifting up and wrapping her legs around his waist. "Right here, right now, then."

He kisses her again, hungrily, and she slides her hand down between them to help him along. No time to waste. The clock in her head is ticking. Eighteen minutes.

He's breathing as hard as she is, and she can feel both of their heartbeats pounding through her body. They're alive enough to frak. That's good enough for now.

2. "Bastille Day"
Doc Cottle blows smoke in his face and says he's 100% fine and should get himself back to Colonial One for a few hours rest before resuming the business of keeping that young President out of trouble. Billy doesn't know what to say to that, so he just nods and slips away as quickly as he can. He doesn't like doctors, or hospitals. They make him nervous. Well, everything about Galactica makes him nervous.

Especially the person he's looking for right now.

She's at Cally's bedside, holding the crewman's hand and laughing softly. Billy hesitates across the room. Cally looks small and pale, and Dee is so beautiful and strong standing there. He isn't sure he's welcome.

But Cally sees him and grins, squeezing Dee's hand and pointing. "I think you need to take care of that," she says, and he isn't sure if she means for him to hear her or not, but he does. "Go on. Adama gave you two whole hours off duty, you should enjoy it."

"Captain Adama gave me two hours," Dee corrects, tucking her chin and rolling her eyes. "I don't know if the Old Man is going to confirm that."

"He will." Cally lets go of her hand and swats at her. "Go talk to your boy before the medics kick him out."

Billy pretends to study a shelf of boxes and bottles-- her boy? What does that mean?-- as Dee crosses the room. "Hey," she says softly, smiling at him. She looks as tired as he feels, but the smile is genuine. "You get the all-clear?"

"Yeah." He nods-- too fast, too much, he probably looks like an idiot. "Yeah. You?"

"Just fine," she says, still smiling. "Fit for duty."

"Good. That's good." He stares at her, those pale pretty eyes in her tired pretty face, and his mouth starts talking without him. "I'm sorry for getting you into the whole thing. And I'm really glad you're okay." There's something else he should say, but words are failing, so he settles for dumb repetition. "Really glad."

"Don't worry about it. It's my job. And I'm fine."

"Yeah, but..." He looks over at Cally, who's either asleep or pretending very well. He watches the monitors flash over her head. "That could've been you. You could have been...hurt."

"But I'm not." She catches his hand and squeezes it gently until he looks at her. "And believe me, I would not have stopped at biting his ear off."

"Right." He chuckles, relieved by her gentle humor and thrilling at her hand in his. "You would've ripped his whole face off."

She blinks once, then smiles patiently. "Yeah."

A beat too late, he realizes he's missed the actual joke-- a feeling he's not unfamiliar with. He blushes and moves to release her hand, but she won't let go.

"I'm really glad you're okay too," she says. "I've got a little time. And I'm starving. Would you like to come up to the mess with me before you go back?"

When he goes back, he'll have to watch President Roslin adjust her whiteboard to reflect that prisoner's death. But only that one-- he's alive, and Dee, and Cally and Captain Adama and the guards. They've all got a little time. "Yeah. I'd like that a lot."

3. "Act of Contrition"
"He gave me his wings." It's the fourth time he's said that in the ten minutes since they got back to their bunks, and Cat isn't sure how many more times she can stand to hear it. "That doesn't, like, count, right? They're not official wings?"

"I'm pretty sure Starbuck won't call you a full pilot just because Captain Adama gave you a present, Costanza," she says, flopping back on her bunk. "Or should I call you Hot Dog, since you're all Mr. Pilot now?"

He blushes, but laughs too. "Lords, I don't know. Is it bad that I'm starting to kind of like that stupid nickname?"

"Nah. Means you're starting to fit in." She stretches slowly, trying to work out the tension that takes over her body when she's in the cockpit. "I can't believe you went after those Cylons like that! What were you thinking?"

"Well, I couldn't just leave Starbuck out there by herself, could I?" He jumps out of his bunk and starts pacing around the room, too wound up to sit still anymore. "I mean, she's good-- she's amazing-- but they would've ripped her to shreds!" He stops. "I guess maybe they did, didn't they?"

"They'll find her," Cat says, trying to sound sure. "Besides, we were just talking yesterday about how she's too mean to die."

"Yeah." He sits down on the edge of his bunk again. "I hope she's okay. Did you see the way she was flying? It's like she just does it, she doesn't have to think, or--"

"Sounds like you have a bit of a crush," Cat interrupts, frowning at the underside of the bunk above hers. Figures every guy would want Starbuck-- well, why not? When you're beautiful, confident, better at your job than everybody else, and could match the guys drink for drink and joke for joke without saying anything stupid, why shouldn't you have them falling for you?

"A crush?" he sputters, staring at her. "On-- on Starbuck? On God?" He shakes his head frantically. "No way, Cat. She'd rip my 'nads off and feed them to me. She's not a girl, she's...she's Starbuck." He lies back on his bunk, still stunned by the very idea, and Cat finds herself grinning again.

"So how does combat flying feel?" she asks, glancing over at him. His answering smile lights up his whole face, and she notices for the first time that Hot Dog Costanza's not bad looking. Not bad at all.

"It's incredible," he says. "The rush-- the adrenaline-- I've never felt anything like it, Cat. It's like...it's really being alive."

"Yeah?" She rolls onto her side and props her head on her hand, looking over at him. They're crammed in here pretty close, and she can see his newly-not-unattractive face from a pretty flattering angle. "Tell me about it."

4. "Flesh and Bone"
He awakens in his new body-- circuits and bioprocessors firing in unison, integrating the newly downloaded consciousness into the passive physical form-- and for a technological eternity and biological microsecond, he feels nothing but relief. He had not been too far away. His soul was not lost. He is intact, and safe, and he lives on.

Others of his model acknowledge him as he passes, moving through the basestar until he reaches an appropriate terminal to make his report. He uploads his data, thanks God for His mercy, and retires to rest, process, and-- to use the human term-- think.

He thinks about Kara.

To him she is Kara Thrace only, rounded vowels and curving sibliants. "Starbuck" is the brash, rowdy mask she affects, the pilot the Sharon Valerii model knows. He has no interest in Starbuck. His mission requires none. But he is very interested in Kara, even more so now than before.

So much anger in her, so much hurt. Only one who had never known God could suffer so deeply. If she let Him into her heart, He would remove her burdens, and she could know peace. And perhaps then she would be grateful to the...being who had started her on the path to God. The one who had first told her of His plans.

She had acknowledged that a Cylon might have a soul, there at the end. She had felt pity for him. Pity was a softer emotion than the anger and fear that she'd shown through the interrogation. Perhaps it meant something.

Does he love her? Not in the crude, heated way Six and Sharon Valerii profess to love their designated partners. Their way is hardly indistinguishable from animal lust. He does not require physical intercourse to express the purity of his feelings, the connection he feels to Kara Thrace. Simple discourse would be enough. Talking to her, getting to know her, guiding her to God...

If God grants him the time and chance, Leoben knows he can save Kara Thrace's soul. And what purer expression of love could there be?

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