I waited impatiently for the shuttle to dock. It seemed like forever since the two of them had gone off on their honeymoon. I hoped everything had gone well, the Galactica had been decidedly boring without them. Cassie was working in the Life Center so I was on my own. Boxey was with his grandfather but I know he was waiting impatiently for both his parents to come home.
When the door slid aside, I waited for them to off load but when ten others exited and there was still no sign of them, I wondered if they'd missed their connection. But just then my brother appeared with his arm around my new brother-in-law and I sighed in relief. They looked good - better than good, they looked great.
"'The, it's good to see you." Apollo smiled happily at me and I knew that whatever had happened on their honeymoon, my big brother was more content than I'd ever seen him.
"Hey, 'The, you might want to think about honeymooning yourself. It's great." Starbuck was as relaxed as I'd ever seen him.
I gathered them into my arms, my voice deserting me. They were so very dear to me and I didn't know how to tell them that. But they seemed to know and their hugs were warm. They shared their happiness with me without stinting and I had a sudden vision of the future when they'd be sharing that warmth with more than just Boxey.
And that would be a dream come true for some little orphan.
"Ah, I thought it was time for you to be getting back." Father's voice came from over my shoulder and I broke away to try and keep from crying in front of him but that was a lost cause.
Boxey was silent as he hurtled himself at his parents and they caught him up in a double hug while he tried to squeeze them tighter. Their soft murmurs were caring while Father held me close and offered me a handkerchief. I used it to blow my nose before tucking it into my pocket.
"Well, boys, I'm having dinner in my quarters and you're all invited. Colonel Tigh will be joining us and we'll be going over your new assignments." Father told them when Boxey finally let go and they came up for air.
"We'll drop off our bags first then we'll be right there, Father." Apollo smiled.
"Can I go with you?" Boxey asked, dividing his look between his fathers.
"Of course you can. In fact it's absolutely essential that you help us unpack because I think there may be something in our bags with your name on it." Starbuck spoke seriously but with a twinkle that clued Boxey in.
"Yes! It's okay, Dad, you can put me down now. I'm getting too big to carry." And he wiggled down between them so he could hold one hand each.
I saw them exchange a rueful look over his head before they headed down the corridor with Boxey talking a mile a minute and swinging their hands back and forth. Father just smiled and urged me down the hall in the opposite direction.
"Go and see if Cassie can get off work a little early so she can join us." He said, finally dropping his arm. "I'm going to go pull Tigh out of Command Central. He is such a workaholic."
"Now there's a case of the pot calling the kettle black, Father." I teased him and felt him swat me, the way he had when I was younger.
"Go, before I decide to assign you an extra shift, young lady." He threatened me with an evil look and I stuck out my tongue before turning off towards the Life Center.
He'd really loosened up since Apollo and Starbuck had gotten together. Perhaps he'd finally let go of the pain of the past and would be open to another relationship. I'd have to ask Cassie since she was the one with the people-eye. He could be having an affair right under my nose and I'd never see it unless she pointed it out.
I was better with machinery then people.
Reaching the Life Center, I walked past reception into the ward where Cassie was working. Her patients were in various stages of recovery and I knew her presence alone was healing. She has an instinct for what each person needs that is phenomenal. It's an extra sense, not one of the common five that all of us have.
She was just finishing up a foot massage for an elderly patient whose ankle and foot were splotched with bruises. "Now, I'm going to put a cold pack on it and you'll feel a hundred percent better tomorrow morning. No walking though, I want it to have a little more rest before you try that. All right?"
"Bless you, yes. It hasn't felt this good in years." The elderly woman flexed her foot with a pleased look on her face. When she looked up and saw me, she smiled. "I think you have a visitor, Cassie. She looks like she's come to take you away from all us sickies."
Cassie's golden head turned just enough to see me. "I think you may be right, Lyco. Athena looks like she's come to walk me home."
I joined them with a chuckle. "Actually, I've come to take you out to dinner. Father has invited us all over to welcome Apollo and Starbuck home."
Her whole face lit up. "How do they look, 'The?"
"Well rested and tanned all over, not to mention happy. Very, very happy."
She sighed happily while she wrapped the cold bandage around Lyco's ankle. "I'm so glad. I'd love to come for dinner. Lyco, how does that feel?"
"Like a little bit of heaven, Cassie. Now, off with you both. You need to freshen up and make yourselves pretty." She beamed at us and motioned us toward the door. "Not that you're not pretty as a pair of statues, right now. Shoo."
So we shooed and Cassie signed out at the front desk before joining me on the walk to home. I had my arm around her shoulders while hers was around my waist. When we're apart for any length of time, I needed to touch her and make her real again. Sometimes I still felt that this was all some beautiful dream and I'd awaken to find myself alone again.
"No brooding, Athena. This is such a happy time for them." Cassie scolded me gently before closing the door behind us and wrapping herself around me.
"I know, love. I'm just so lucky that I get a little frightened that it's going to disappear." I confessed quietly.
"It's possible, 'The. The Cylons could find us at any moment. The Galactica could take a hit and kill either one of us. Starbuck or Apollo's Vipers could be shot down and we'd lose them." She ticked off each horrible vision while I shivered. "On the other hand, we might lose the Cylons completely. Earth might welcome us with open arms. I could become a prize-winning author about my life as a socialator. You could take over for your father as Commander while he retires with his long time lover, Tigh. Apollo could get pregnant and give Starbuck another son."
By now, I was snickering into the soft cloud of her hair. "All right, all right, I get the picture. Is there something you know about Father and Tigh that I've missed? He told me that the Colonel would be at dinner tonight."
That Capri-cat smile was back. "Nothing solid but I'll be interested in watching them tonight. Come and scrub my back. I need to wash away the day."
"Bad day?" I followed her into the turbowash and watched her undress.
"We lost Danae today. Her heart finally gave out." She sighed and began helping me undress, her clever fingers undoing all my snaps. "She was so cheerful all the way up to the end, giving others comfort while she faded away."
"You did all you could, Cassie. At least she was comfortable and warm while she was dying. Some of the ships aren't so caring." I hugged her close and turned on the water. "What we really need is a solar system where we can get off these damn ships and go back to building our lives."
"Oh-h-h, Revolutionary Athena, one of my favorite personas." She brightened up and pulled me in after her, reaching for the soap and lathering it.
I laughed and let her get my back while I gathered my own lather to return the favor. The rest of our wash was leisurely while we both thought about what we'd said. I didn't know if I was ready to sound out Father but I had my suspicions about Apollo. He was maturing nicely and occasionally I'd caught a glimpse of his feelings.
Finally we were ready and we walked arm in arm down to Father's quarters. The others had already arrived and I watched them interact while we got our pre-dinner drinks. Tigh was as relaxed as I'd ever seen him, sitting back and listening to Father quiz the boys on their sight-seeing.
That was wicked if only because I doubted that they'd left their honeymoon rooms. But Starbuck gave back as good as he got describing Apollo's swimming lessons and making Boxey giggle while my brother just rolled his eyes. Cassie and I sat on the long seat with our drinks and listened to the happy pair. I felt a little wistful at their complete inability to stop touching each other.
Real life was going to be painful for the next few sectars while they got used to their separate jobs. The Flying Academy was all agog with Starbuck as their new commander. I was waiting impatiently for my ex-lover to realize just what he'd gotten himself into. The man who hated paperwork and schedules was about to get a down and dirty lesson in the 'privileges' of command.
Apollo would fit right in with the Command staff although his ability to make fast decisions was going to be frustrated by the slow, deliberate process that was the norm for the Council meetings. The politics were going to be extremely labyrinthine to the plain speaking, honest man was my brother.
Luckily, they both had Cassie and I to help them out.
Dinner was light hearted and I watched the way Father's eyes went to Tigh over and over. On the other hand, the Colonel seemed overwhelmed with our noisy family chatter so his gaze rather frequently came back to the man with the wise blue eyes at the head of the table. He had a wicked sense of humor that was finally freed by Boxey's retelling of an old joke.
The little imp does it on purpose. I shudder to think what he and Starbuck will be up to once they have more time to plot. The practical jokes that they'll play should keep this family on its toes for decades to come. I looked about the table and thanked all the Lords of Kobol for my wonderful family.
"Why so serious, Athena?" Starbuck noticed my abstraction.
"I was just thinking how very lucky I am to be a part of this family."
His eyes immediately went to Apollo. "I know what you mean."
Father nodded. "I agree. Let's take a moment to tell each other something for which we're thankful." He waited for us to nod. "I am thankful that there hasn't been a Cylon attack for over a sectar and all of you are safely here out of harm's way."
Cassie was next and her hand grasped mine under the table. "I'm thankful for the chance to work in the Life Center and come home every night to Athena."
I raised her hand to my lips and watched her blush. "I'm grateful for the chance to do a job I love while loving Cassie with all my heart."
Tigh was next and his hand played with the silverware a moment before he raised those dark brown eyes down the table to Father. "I'm grateful for the chance to be part of a family again while not having to send out any pilots to be killed."
Next to him, Apollo nodded. "I'm thankful for Starbuck's love and the chance to maybe make a difference in the life of the Fleet."
Boxey had watched us all with wide eyes and he tilted his head a little, a movement he'd copied from Apollo. "I love all of you so much. I know how lucky I am that I have dads to take care of me, aunts to love me and a grandpa to hug. I'm really glad my dads are home."
We all smiled at him for saying so well what we were feeling. That young man is going to be either a diplomat or a healer when he grows up. Now it was Starbuck's turn and he was playing with his silverware too.
Finally he raised his eyes and cast a speaking look around the table. "I'm the luckiest man in the Fleet and I have been since Apollo opened his heart to me. You all took me in and gave me the home I'd never had. I thank the Lords every night for another day of love."
Cassie was sniffing at the wonder and disbelief in his voice. I had to blink away a tear myself and I could have sworn that Father was blinking rather rapidly himself. It was his voice that finally brought us out of the teary moment.
"We may just be the happiest family in the Fleet at this moment. Let's take a moment to thank the Lords for our many blessings." He held out his hands to Cassie and Starbuck and the rest of us followed suit until we'd finished the circle.
Father bowed his head and closed his eyes. "Lords, we thank you for our family and the blessings of love that you've showered upon us all. Please give the Fleet the same peace and contentment that you've shown to us and bring an end to the conflicts that surround us. In thy name, we ask this."
I felt as if the golden peace from Apollo and Starbuck's Sealing ceremony returned to wash through us with its healing contentment. Maybe it really was time to stop our race away from the only home we'd ever known and take a good look at the possibilities that waited for us in this vast universe.
With Cassie's hand in mine and my family growing in front of my eyes, maybe it was time to take a chance on love. To build rather than destroy. To give comfort instead of pain. To heal our wounds instead of inflicting more. Maybe we had the chance to change the world into something bright new.
Perhaps it was time to dream some new dreams.
End part eighteen