Joined: 21 Jul 2006
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
|Posted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 5:00 am Post subject: Throw Me A Line
|Inspired by pondering what it took for Sheba to go from slamming Starbuck with one liners in the Living Legend—“You wouldn't want me to throw the mission just to avoid losing the bet"—to her defending Starbuck in the OC in Greetings From Earth—“Apollo, I think you’re being a little too hard on Starbuck” Takes place just before Greetings From Earth.
Throw Me A Line
By Lisa Zaza
Sheba groaned. Hades Hole, here comes another one.
What in the twelve worlds had she been thinking when she’d decided to venture out to the Rising Star’s Astral Lounge on her own? Every lonely male with a nose for isolated estrogen had made his way over to her and had used every over-used and ultra-lame line on her from “Hey, beautiful, your laser sights must be set on stun, because stunned is how I feel when I look at you” to “Lords of Kobol, what a hyperdrive!".
At first she had laughed it off. After all, she had come there with a mind to socialize and meet some new people, but primarily to escape the fourth anniversary of her mother’s death and all the associated memories that went along with it. She was dressed to kill, so it was no surprise she was receiving some attention—make that major scanner sweeps. Her new dress clung in just the right places as she walked, subtly accentuating her curves, and her hair was elegantly swept up off her neck. A little R & R was just what she needed and this was the place for it.
The last sectars had been tough. Leaving the Pegasus and losing all contact with her father. A fire that could have destroyed the Galactica. The mysterious and horrifying Count Iblis, and her inexplicable and not so flattering reaction to him. Those disturbing memories of Apollo’s death and her elusive recollection of the ensuing events. If it hadn’t been for her new friends’ support, she knew she wouldn’t have been able to carry on as before as the top notch pilot and Colonial Warrior who had built a reputation which demanded respect before she had joined her father’s ship and had been subjected to any notion of being Daddy’s Girl.
Yet, despite that support, she still felt that definite difference in the Command Structure now that someone else’s father was the Commander of her base ship. And she had taken her share of deep breaths and bitten her lip more than once as other officers of equal rank, most notably Lieutenant Starbuck, were picked for assignments by her new Strike Captain that would have at one time gone to her.
Not that she had held it against him, from a strictly military perspective. Apollo had, after all, known Starbuck a long time. There was an inherent trust between the two that came from history, experience and friendship. They had successfully pulled off countless missions together, including an infiltration mission into a Cylon garrison to blow up a super-pulsar weapon of horrifying power. No, they weren’t just the Gold Team in Triad. Put those two together and anything was possible, even she was beginning to believe it. She simply couldn’t measure up to all that after being a part of the Galactica’s crew for such a relatively short time, after all, her personal file hadn’t made the transfer with her, and she had to prove her worth once again—at least in her own mind. Well, thankfully she had been included in the Command Structure, along with Starbuck, and it was now commonplace for both of them to back up Apollo on important reconnaissance missions and . . .
“What time do you have to be back in Heaven, Angel?”
She gritted her teeth before turning to respond. “Actually, I’m from the Prison Barge.” She smiled sweetly, with a lot of effort, up at a tall, blond-haired, brown-eyed, clean shaven man who at any other time—and with a much better approach—she might have given the time of day to, but she’d already reached saturation point and there was no going back now. “Lights out really doesn’t apply unless they realize I’m gone, so I guess that leaves it open.”
“Uh . . .” he mumbled in uncertainty, his eyes widening in horror.
And he did. Actually, he didn’t even look back as he scurried away in haste, his balance somewhat the worse for drink. She chuckled under her breath, enjoying the moment more than she really should have. She sipped on her drink and once again watched the crowd of people, many of them dancing to the latest techno-pop, writhing their way across the dance floor to the accompaniment of some odd singers, each with four eyes, and two mouths. Where the Hades Hole did they dig them up? At least they had given up on the previous dance craze, incorporating the holding of a short line while dancing. Yes, thankfully Line Dancing was short-lived in Colonial history.
She sat back in her comfortable chair, again taking a sip from her glass. She could feel a welcoming warmth begin to envelop her from the ambrosa, starting from her stomach and moving outward, gradually easing her previous tension. Yes, she had come in search of some easy company, and had ended up warding off unwanted advances all night. If she wasn’t so determined to not admit defeat, she would have left long ago. After all, she was a grown woman and a decorated lieutenant in the Colonial Service. She could take care of herself.
Enemy target dead ahead.
Damn! Another one! And heading across the dance floor straight for her. Actually dancing towards her, obviously thinking he had reached the point of irresistibility that only far too much grog could achieve. Lords! How many times did a woman have to say “no” to get her point across? She should have brought her Colonial Blaster. She was beginning to get the idea that only by winging one of her would-be suitors, would the rest of them get the message.
Then unexpectedly, a breath caressed her ear and the length of her exposed neck on that side, “I’ll let you buy me a drink if you’re nice to me. I might even let you take me home,” a husky voice whispered in her ear.
Sheba jumped to her feet, whirling on the intruder. She was angry enough to shoot him dead, especially since she had just spilt her drink on her new dress. “Why, you . . .!”
He was leaning over her recently evacuated seat, his hands resting casually on the back of the overstuffed chair, as usual, in uniform. If anything the twinkle in those blue eyes intensified, and his grin broadened as he watched her. “Maybe you should get us both a drink.”
“Starbuck . . .”
At one time his earlier remarks would have had her hurling one liners back at him that would make him cringe. But that was before she had witnessed his compassion first hand, while she lay in Life Station being welcomed into the fold that was Commander Adama’s extended family. She had been injured in battle, her Viper nearly shot to bits, not long before the Pegasus and her father, Commander Cain, had disappeared into a blazing flash of laser fire and destruction as they took on three Cylon Base Ships single-handedly. Even after exchanging retorts with Starbuck in the briefing, when it really counted he offered her kindness, hope and support, making her realize there was much more to him than the superficial playboy that he portrayed, and so a wary friendship began. Then there was the shared experience of seeing Apollo killed by Count Iblis, which neither seemed inclined to discuss, both warriors having fleeting and disturbing memories of the incident. But it had strengthened their friendship, especially, when Starbuck had never even intimated that he had thought her responsible, placing full blame on Iblis, while Sheba’s own guilt had been a personal battle that had at times consumed her.
“Wanna dance, Baby? I sawr you watchin’ me on the . . .” something between a belch and a wheeze passed his lips before the slurred voice from behind her continued, “. . . dance flur, Whaddya say?"
The dancing fool had reached her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, the last picture in her mind that of a obviously amused and smirking Lieutenant Starbuck. She opened her eyes, her gaze trained on her fellow officer. “Why don’t you dance with the Lieutenant. I hear he’s light on his feet.”
Starbuck’s eyes opened wide in surprise and his jaw dropped for a micron before he broke out laughing, partially at her own look of surprise as she abruptly realized the connotation of her remark. She could hear a series of strangled “uh’s” and “er’s” behind her as another potential suitor retreated in horror.
“What are you trying to do?” Starbuck asked in mock indignation. “Ruin my reputation?”
Sheba covered her mouth with one hand, muffling her own laughter.
“Well, I’m glad you find it funny.” Starbuck continued, controlling his own smirk. “I should have just left you to that lupus and the rest of his pack.” He sniffed theatrically. "Here." He moved forward napkin in hand, “Shall I?” The devilry was back on his features.
“I can do it!” Sheba insisted, taking the proffered napkin and dabbing at her dress. “Besides, are you actually trying to tell me that you were protecting me?” Sheba asked with a sniff of disbelief, taking a step towards him and looking up at him incredulously. “You were just as bad as the rest of them with that line of yours.”
His eyebrows rose quizzically as if proclaiming his innocence, but his eyes said it all. There was far too much satisfaction buried in those baby blues—the window to the soul indeed.
“And besides, I thought you were a traditionalist, at least that’s the polite word for it.” Sheba smiled, “Isn’t the gentleman supposed to buy the lady a drink?”
“Of course,” he replied, pausing for a moment. “Find me a lady, and I’ll buy her a drink,” he retorted, chuckling. He looked around, past her, hand shielding his brow as if from an imaginary sun. "Any ladies around here?"
“Touché,” she smiled, shaking her head, realizing she had walked right into it. Still, Starbuck had never tried to connive her into buying him a drink before, therefore . . .“So, bad luck at the gaming tables?”
The ensuing wince that crossed his features told the tale that he probably wouldn’t as he pulled a chair out for her. “Easy come, easy go,” he replied with a nonchalant shrug as he waited for her to sit and then followed suit. He pulled a fumarello from his flight jacket, fingering it lightly before lighting it and drawing in its fumes. He considered her for a moment before extending it to her, and asking, “Want a drag?”
She shook her head in disgust, waving his proffered smoke away. “No, definitely not. I don’t know what you see in them.”
“Have you tried one?” he asked smiling, his voice akin to a mother trying to get her child to eat his vegetables.
“Only second hand, like the rest of your friends,” she ribbed him, glad of the air filtration system above them.
“Never mind,” he grinned, sucking on his fumarello again. “I keep forgetting.”
She shook her head slightly, knowing she was walking into something again. “I’m almost afraid to ask . . . forgetting what?
“How conservative you are.”
Her chin shot up a notch and she bit back her refuting remark as she studied him. He was leaning back, relaxed and clearly enjoying the moment. “You’re baiting me. Purposely baiting me.”
He simply smiled in return, his shoulders shaking briefly in silent mirth at her perceptiveness, before he winked at her. “You look stunning tonight, Sheba. Despite the ambrosa on your dress.” His head cocked slightly to the right. “Maybe even all the more so because of it.”
“How’s that?” she asked, shaking her head in bemusement, wondering where he was heading now, and if the compliment was purely to distract her from the previous topic.
His eyes swept over her, head to toe, before returning to her eyes . . . reluctantly. Part of her wanted to smack him, but that other part—the one that had been in uniform far too long—was sort of enjoying it. Especially knowing that he was committed to Cassiopeia.
After the last centar of being subjected to idiotic louts, this was almost perfect. She had known from the start that Starbuck found her attractive, thus his behavior—though meant to be flirtatious and playful—was certainly conceivable. Yet, he was off limits because of a certain med tech that she knew and admired, especially after Cassiopeia had risked her life for Bojay, a man she scarcely knew, on Gamoray, totally changing her opinion of the woman who had replaced Sheba’s mother at Cain’s side not long after Bethany’s horrible death. Not long enough after . . .
“You were almost too . . . perfectly put together before.” Starbuck told her, distracting her from hurtful memories as he leaned forward and tucked an escaping tendril of hair behind her ear.
She startled when she felt a shiver run down her spine as a sensitive area was lightly touched by a man . . . an attractive man . . . with piercing blue eyes . . . in an officer’s uniform . . . She watched curiously as he relaxed back into the chair, his eyes once again daring her to react in kind. She slowly smiled and gave him her best “come hither” look, getting into the spirit of the moment . . . for the moment. What was the harm? A little innocent flirting on both sides. To save an otherwise disastrous evening with some innocuous fun. Lords, how long had it been since someone had made her feel like a beautiful, sensuous, desirable woman? She had hoped Apollo might make a move in that direction when he had invited her into his circle of friends, but so far the captain had kept their relationship at a platonic level . . .“Your lines are improving, hotshot.”
“What about you, Sheba?” Starbuck asked her unexpectedly. “Throw me a line.”
For an instant, she thought she saw something else lurking behind his playful demeanor. Something that would change the implication of his request. After all, she remembered that for all that she had been through recently, that Starbuck had had some troubles of his own. The coming of Cain and the Pegasus had apparently shaken him when his lady love had run into the Juggernaut’s arms at the first mention of Cain’s name, or so rumour had it. He too had been there to witness Count Iblis striking down Apollo, helpless to prevent the death of his best friend and wing leader. Then the sudden promise of discovering his long lost father had been dashed by a conman merely seeking protection from Borellian Nomen. And to top it all off, it had been only a couple sectons since he had been tried for the willful and premeditated termination of Ortega.
“Are you okay, Starbuck?” she asked hesitantly. Now that she thought about it, why was he here alone? Was he trying to escape a few demons of his own? Was he avoiding the concern of those—like Cassie or Apollo—who wouldn’t let him hide beneath his nonchalant façade.
He paused for a moment, taking another drag of his smoke and slowly exhaling in the opposite direction. Whether he was being polite, or merely avoiding her penetrating stare, she wasn’t sure. Then he leaned forward again and stared into her eyes, his face carefully impassive.
“Is that the best you can do?” he asked softly.
A man like Starbuck didn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve. In fact he filled his centars with frivolous activities, living life to the fullest and accepting each pitfall that came his way with apparent insouciance, as though it was of no consequence to him in the long run. It was the shield he wore before him as he advanced through life. Rumour had it, it took the solitude of a long-range patrol, or—in her own experience—a real tragedy before he would open up and express his true feelings. She could respect that, especially having been raised by a man like Cain. In a way, she realized they were kindred spirits for the time being, both looking for a distraction from troubles—or memories—that could otherwise have them slipping into an introspective funk. Shudder.
Sheba leaned forward. She rested her hand on his, preventing him from raising that smoldering weed to his lips once again, before she purred, “Can I buy you a drink, flyboy?”
She watched as his eyes widened ever so slightly, as though surprised that she had met his challenge. She smiled sensuously as she took his fumarello, slowly moving it to her own lips before she took a small puff, watching his face as he followed her movements, almost as if in a trance.
It would have been magical if she could have controlled the two small, inelegant coughs that expelled the foul toxins from her lungs.
Starbuck smiled in bemusement, before nodding in satisfaction. “Now that was good.” He took the fumarello from her fingers, sitting back before again taking a drag, and grinning lazily at her as he signaled to the server for their drinks. “I’m impressed.”
“Is that what it takes to impress you? Rise to the challenge?” She asked, a smirk on her features.
“Is that how you see it?” he asked while holding her gaze and apparently considering her remark as two glasses of ambrosa were delivered to them. “I wasn’t challenging you, Sheba, just inviting you.”
Sheba laughed as she dropped some cubits on the woman’s tray. “Talk about splitting hairs. What’s the difference?”
“Challenge implies it’s something you don’t want to do. Invitation . . . well . . .” he grinned mischievously, “an invitation is really more like offering an opportunity to do something that you really want to, or at the very least might, but are holding back from for some reason.”
“Some reason? Like conservatism?” She asked suspiciously, beginning to understand his line of thought . . . which was a little bit scary.
“Exactly.” He nodded, raising his glass to her, waiting for her to do the same before taking a long drink.
“So you think I’m too uptight?” She asked, watching his features change from relaxation and self-satisfaction to one of total surprise.
He shook his head, “No, not at all. Sagan sakes, Sheba, after all you’ve been through since we lost track of the Pegasus . . .”
She abruptly dropped his gaze in response to his words, once again thinking of her father, her friends, her past . . . Then she recalled his choice of words and looked back up to see him watching her quietly, patiently waiting . . . “Do you really think he’s . . . they’re still out there . . . somewhere . . .?” She turned to look out the viewport at the endless sea of stars.
He sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his drink cradled between both hands and his face open, hiding nothing. “Of course, I do. I’d bet a bundle on it, if I ever had the opportunity . . .” he grinned wryly, “or the cubits. He’s a survivor, your father. Commander Cain has never been anything but the ultimate survivor. He’s out there somewhere . . . " He nodded his head towards the starscape. "Out there, biding his time, running rings around Baltar, probably watching our astrums.”
She blinked back tears, unsure if they were in gratitude for his support, or in grief for her losses . . . however temporary Starbuck would have her believe them to be. “Who’s throwing who a line now?”
“Some lines have two ends, sweet lady,” he reminded her, clinking his glass against hers before his hand swept the room, indicating the festivities. “In any case, we . . .” he took another gulp from his drink, “. . .have a night to remember ahead of us.”
And a load of troubles to forget, Sheba thought, as she followed his glance and wondered what it would be like to cast aside her concerns and responsibilities and just live life to the fullest for one night. She was about to find out from a pro. “Sounds interesting. There’s something I need to know though.”
Starbuck sniffed in amusement, “You know it’s all in good fun, Sheba. Cassie and I . . .well . . .” he shrugged and shook his head, as if not quite able to believe he was saying it . . . or wasn’t saying it.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant.” She assured him, having no doubt that their flirting, drinking and carousing would only lead to them stumbling on to the last shuttle back to the Galactica. She smiled to herself, realizing his opening line had come true. Not only had she bought him a drink, but she would be taking him home as well . . . or at least back to their base ship which was all the home either of them had for now.
“What then?” Starbuck asked, his interest piqued.
Sheba smiled slyly, leaning forward and clinking glasses with his. “Will you still respect me in the morning?”
Starbuck laughed, nodding in appreciation at her humour. “I hope not,” he winked at her. “Lords, I hope not.”