Lost In Starbuck

Sometimes even a scalding hot, three centon turbo wash didn't seem to be enough to make it all go away. The pain, the misery, the suffering, the complete chaos that the Life Station had erupted into as casualties from the Cylon attack, as well as the ensuing fire, came flooding in. It all ran through her head now as horrifying, scattered images indelibly etched in her mind. No matter how she tried to keep them at bay, still they haunted her. The injured. The burned. The maimed. The dying. The dead. Those that she was helpless to assist, no matter how they begged or pleaded . . .

Tears coursed down her cheeks unheeded, intermingling with the cleanser as she let all her pent up emotions erupt in a complete breakdown, in the privacy of her quarters. Her shoulders trembled as she began to sob. For not the first time, Cassiopeia wondered why she had chosen to alter her career so drastically following the Destruction. That rash decision to answer a call for a shortage of med techs and to begin her training course in emergency medicine . . . what in Hades Hole was she thinking?

Instead, she could have spent today in the company of a gentleman . . . any number of gentlemen, and the smile she had pasted on her face would have seemed so much less fabricated and forced. At the worst she would have had to ward off the expected unwelcome advances, tactfully reminding her client that she was being paid for her company, not sexual intercourse—which was exclusively her prerogative—instead of having to tear herself free from a dying man's hand as he screamed in pain and terror while he waited to be saved, but she knew it was not to be. All that time she had the image of Dr. Salik briefly checking his wounds with a biomonitor and regrettably triaging him as one of those who would die anyway, whether he received medical attention, or not. A brief shake of the medical officer's head had decided the firefighter's fate in a matter of centons.

She held her face up to the pelting spray, trying to visualize the anger, regret, and horror running off her, as the water cascaded over her shaking body. She hadn't felt so helpless since fleeing from the Cylon attack on Gemon, and desperately searching for passage on any available ship. Her skills had sadly not been up to the situation—though she had done her best to keep up a professional demeanour—and she had realized that her previous experience had always been in a controlled environment where the wounded had been limited to the odd injured Viper pilot who had been lucky enough to be able to bring his damaged ship in, or to one small task force on a mission. Hades, she actually had more experience with viruses than with trauma, Bojay's injuries sustained on Gamoray being the most glaring exception to that rule.

The Life Station had turned into more of a field infirmary, with injured men and women lying, sitting and standing in every available centimetron of space, and their loved ones frequently comming the station, or even showing up, to enquire on the latest update. The moans and gasps of pain, the screams of agony from the injured had told heavily on her nerves. Lords, when they had brought in Commander Adama, it was all she could do to keep a stiff upper lip and keep functioning—or at least appearing to—as she offered her usual support with her well-rehearsed facade of aplomb. Hearing about her good friends trapped in the Rejuvenation Center had only made it worse. She shook her head as she recalled promising Apollo that she'd stay with his father, when she knew she could only offer occasional microns of invaluable time with her unbelievable patient load. It was one of the most difficult lies she had ever told, but she knew she had to put his mind somewhat at ease if he was to be able to continue his duties, if that was possible with his entire family in danger. How she had made it through that day and had kept her wits about her was beyond her now. How Apollo had . . .

She gulped in a sobbing breath, thinking of the necessity of keeping men on duty while the lives of their families hung precariously in the balance. There had been so much hardship, adversity and grief, and it had covered the Life Station like an immuring force, as they all waited to see if the fire could be extinguished in time to save those trapped. Later she had found out from Starbuck, that the entire Battlestar had been in mortal danger. Had the fire burned through the ravaged shielding, and reached the solium storage tanks, the whole ship would have exploded. All over before they could even have known what hit them. It had stunned her at the time, being entirely unaware that—much like Apollo's family—her own existence had been hanging by a tenuous thread.

Which was probably what had driven her over the brink as she found herself standing in her turbo wash, fully clothed, shaking like a leaf, fervently wishing that the blistering, driving water could cleanse her body and soul, and remove any memory of the terrible tragedy she had seen this day. She felt physically and mentally spent, as what was left of the adrenaline in her system faded away. A resulting numbness seemed to encapsulate Cassiopeia, overcoming and squeezing every last vestige of warmth from her.

Beep!

She paused when she heard it, quieting her sobs and wondering what it was for a micron, feeling guilty at being caught so exposed, her emotions raw and on display . . .

Beep! Beep! Beep!

It was the insistence that tweaked her. That, and the vague memory of a promised late night dinner in the OC. Starbuck.

As usual, her lover had seemed to come through another disaster with his usual confidence and good humour. She still remembered that cheerful smile on his face as he brought Muffit into the Life Station, returning the missing and thought 'dead' daggit to an ebullient Boxey. By then, all she could do was stand by quietly and smile at the tearful reunion, trying to absorb some of the warmth from the small group of family and friends who had miraculously survived against the odds.

Again.

"Cassiopeia?"

Cassie opened her eyes, abruptly realizing that Starbuck was in the room with her. At the same moment she realized she was shivering even more, and that the hot turbo wash had stopped raining down on her body. Her three centons were apparently up.

"Cass?" He tapped lightly on the translucent door that separated them. "Are you alright?"

She sniffed. She was about as far from 'alright' as she had been for sectars. Fleeing through the stars in a ravaged ship, with your entire civilisation in rubble far behind you, how 'alright' could you possibly be? She shouldn't have been surprised when he waited only a few microns for an answer before opening the door slowly, and cautiously, as if afraid of what he'd find within.

His eyes ran over her slowly, taking in the soaking wet uniform, and undoubtedly her red, puffy eyes. Strangely, he didn't look the least bit surprised, or disappointed, as though he came across fully dressed, soaking wet women standing in their turbo washes every day of the secton. Then again, knowing Starbuck, that probably wasn't far off the truth.

"Come here," he beckoned to her quietly.

"I'll get you . . . wet . . ." she managed to stutter before she hiccoughed ungraciously, feeling at a decided disadvantage. Starbuck had only seen her at her best, and this had to be a shock to even his system. Any centon now he'd be running for the door . . .

He simply shrugged and reached forward, taking her ice cold hands and pulling her into his embrace. A few microns later, he had her undressed and wrapped in a towel, and was stroking her sodden hair, murmuring inconsequential reassurances as though she was a child. She had said not a word as he stripped her of her clothes, nor did he. The trust was implicit in her acquiescence, and it surprised her that he had managed to penetrate her natural defences—erected through yahrens of socialation—so stealthily over the last sectars, without her really being aware of it. He lifted her lithe form easily, carrying her into her chamber and lying her gently on the bed, before doffing his boots and sidearm, stretching out and pasting himself against her. Then he covering them both with a blanket as he silently offered his warmth, strength and support.

"I'm sorry . . ." she murmured, finally feeling his heat beginning to penetrate her enervated body . . . and her heart. She turned to face him.

"Shh," he murmured, tenderly brushing a kiss against her forehead before again pulling her against him. "Nothin' to be sorry for."

There was something about his mien that made her realize he had been there before in her place. That he had been overcome by the terror and the horror, and had dealt with it in his own way, though he never spoke of such things. Naturally, as a warrior, he'd seen far more horror, ugliness and death than she could ever imagine. By just being there for her, and holding her close, he was telling her it was okay. That she would be okay.

It reminded her slightly of meeting him not long after the Destruction, when he had taken her to the Galactica, and had then gone out of his way to offer kindness to a virtual stranger with no strings attached, even though they both suspected that the mutual attraction they experienced would almost guarantee a tryst, despite his insistent denial of any questionable intentions. It was a side of Starbuck that he kept closely guarded, letting few see, even among his closest comrades. It hadn't been long before they had found themselves in a passionate embrace, two souls uniting in an attempt to find something wonderful and meaningful in a world full of despair and death.

Cassiopeia pulled back from him, lightly brushing his lips with her own before staring searchingly into his eyes. "I need you," she murmured huskily.

He nodded, as if he understood completely that she wanted his reaffirming touch more than anything else. He tenderly cupped her face and kissed her slowly, sensually, bringing her previously depleted senses gradually alive once again.

Insistently, she pulled him down atop her, running her fingers through his hair, feeling her passion, and her need for him grow. Every touch, every breath, every whispered endearment left her feeling reborn, reenergized. Intensity, ardour, rapture, ecstasy, the emotions suffused her, leaving her breathless and intoxicated as she desperately and intentionally lost herself in Starbuck . . .