Diana was three chapters in before she realized she hadn't read a word of the book open in front of her. Romance wasn't really her thing. Still, a few weeks ago she would have traded a month's worth of latrine duty for the chance to read a book she hadn't already worn out the cover of. Pretty much everything about the Demetrius sucked, but at least the overheated shit-ship had some amenities, like a few novels left behind by the last crew and real tea and coffee in the kitchen cabinets. Not to mention the porn - though within a week Pike had squirreled most of that away for 'personal use,' and no one else really wanted to touch it after that.
An open book gave her an excuse not to talk to anyone, which was something. The Galactica was far from a cruise ship, but on the off chance she made it back alive, Diana thought it would feel downright spacious after the sweaty claustrophobia of the Demetrius. Only twenty of them had been chosen for this honor, but the ship was so small they were practically crawling on top of each other. Every square inch was bare, cramped and functional; even the crew's barracks did double duty as the makeshift kitchen. Annoyances she might have brushed off on the Bucket were starting to get under her skin and fester. So she kept her nose in a book when she got the chance, and tried to let her mind wander.
New Caprica was an easy choice. The military had never been a long-term plan; just a way to see the other eleven colonies on someone else's dime while earning money for college, like the commercials said. That was a bust. On New Caprica she could be Diana again, not Seelix the deckhand. Diana might not know where she was going, but she certainly had no reason to stay.
"Tea will be ready in a bit," Barolay said from the stove where she was stirring the morning algae. Diana looked up to see an all-too familiar form in the doorway. Anders took the seat across from where Gaeta was sitting, intent on his star charts. He had been gone all night. Not that she was keeping tabs on him, but it was hard not to notice when his empty rack was right across from hers. Harder still not to judge when she knew exactly where he'd been.
She was worried, not jealous, Diana told herself. Nobody wanted to think that Starbuck was a Cylon, but Apollo saw her ship explode, and they'd all heard it. And then she showed up, weeks later, flying a spooky new Viper without a mark on it, claiming she knew the way to Earth. And instead of tossing her out an airlock like he would anyone else, the Old Man had sent Diana and a score of others off on a glorified scavenger hunt, chasing Starbuck's delusions around in circles.
"You're not going," Cally told her flatly. "Seelix, this is frakking insanity. Go to Adama; tell him you're requesting a demotion back to deckhand. Or I'll ask Galen to say we need you back here," she added with a slight quaver. Seelix saw the desperation in her eyes and didn't have the heart to tell her she was being an idiot. Instead she hugged her close and promised to tell her all about it when she got back.
Diana was pretty certain that no one trusted Starbuck at this point, not even her friend Helo, though he refused to drop the loyal second-in-command act. No one but her faithful husband.
But she had to swallow a chuckle at Anders' expression as he pushed Pike's skin mag across the table with the tip of his finger.
"Who the frak reads this at the table where we eat?" He demanded.
"Take a guess," Barolay snorted, without turning around, and Anders laughed.
She could never get him to laugh after Starbuck died. She thought if she could just get him to forget for that one brief moment, it would be something. Irony of ironies, Diana initially took the aptly named "Longshot" under her wing as a kind of posthumous favor to his dead wife. Teaching her to fly was one of the last things Starbuck did before she started to lose it, and easing Sam's transition into Viper jockdom seemed a fitting way to honor that. And if she soon found herself thinking of him as more than a charity-case or even a friend, Diana kept that to herself. She knew he wasn't ready, and wouldn't be for a long time – or so she thought. It was hard to swallow her hurt and confusion when she caught him in bed with the lovely presidential aide, and their friendship had cooled thereafter.
"There is something seriously creepy about jerking off to dead chicks," Hot Dog piped up from the rack where he was lazily keeping an eye on breakfast.
"Yeah, being hung up on dead chicks is pretty weird," Diana heard herself saying.
Total silence. Diana tried not to cringe as she felt the air drain out of the room. Only Gaeta didn't look up from his charts, though she thought she saw the corners of his mouth curl into a slight smirk.
"Yeah, that definitely makes the whole porn thing just a little weird," Sam said, carefully addressing Hotdog alone. Ever the peacemaker, Hot Dog took that as his cue to inform the room about the new underground porn market that a few enterprising souls had started up on the Prometheus. Diana went back to staring at her book.
"You're going," Cally informed her. "Seelix, if I have to be there when I can't drink and I'm getting kicked in the ribs every two minutes, you can just… suck it up." She gave her foot a little stomp for emphasis.
"Didn't we just have a dance?" Diana hadn't been there, as Cally was quick to remind her, but the groundbreaking ceremony had been only a few months ago. But that was before the air turned cold and the settlers turned colder to President Baltar's endless promises, and she suspected he was getting desperate. And what better way to placate the masses than by throwing a party?
But Cally was persistent. "And besides which, my husband won't dance and I need a partner," she wheedled. "Hey, remember when I saved your life?"
Diana bit back a smile at the memory. She really missed Cally. A hand clapped her shoulder and she found herself smiling into Helo's open face. "Athena on patrol with Pike?" Anders asked him.
"Yeah," Helo said, and then added after a moment's hesitation, "and we may be down a crewman. Athena was talking about getting him to do a spacewalk and then leaving him there when she left."
There were a few surprised chuckles, and Diana could feel the tension begin to ebb. A few weeks ago Helo would never have joked like that about a guy under his command, especially not in front of subordinates. She guessed the situation was getting to everyone, and she tried not to let that scare her.
"She's got my vote," Barolay said. Diana had had to step between her and Pike the other night, after he made a particularly revolting comment about Cylon-lovers that could have been directed at Helo or Anders.
"Mine too," she chimed in just as Hot Dog and Anders did. They smirked at each other, quarrels temporarily forgotten in their disdain for the unfortunate Pike. It was true - if Diana had to choose, she'd still rather be trapped in a room with even Starbuck over Pike; a delusional Cylon apt to kill them all was marginally more bearable than an incessant whiner. The guy never shut up, and never opened his mouth except to complain. Though annoying wasn't the same as wrong.
"Well, if we get six votes, why don't we just throw him out the airlock and tell Adama it was a trial?" Gaeta asked.
Diana could feel the blood rush to her face, though she realized she was one of three people in the room to get the reference. She remembered all too well the night she, Barolay and Starbuck had nearly killed the Lieutenant for collaborating with the Cylons, only to discover his innocence at the last moment. It was never spoken of; Gaeta worked in the CIC, so it wasn't like she saw much of him afterwards. There were a few moments over the past weeks, trapped in these close quarters, when she thought of saying something to him, but she always stopped herself. It wasn't the kind of thing you could apologize for.
"I can't believe you of all people are supporting this, Captain," Diana watched in amusement as Gaeta waved a slightly unsteady finger at Starbuck. Whatever she might have imagined a New Caprican party would entail, watching Kara Thrace and Felix Gaeta drunkenly argue politics was not on the list. They were having it out regarding the prison Starbuck had just been assigned to help build on the outskirts of the city. Gaeta thought it was a criminal waste of resources; the people of New Caprica were living in tents, and they were using their few raw materials to build a giant prison? Starbuck, on the other hand, thought that people needed something to fear.
"Why 'me of all people?'" Starbuck teased, shouting over the music.
"Oh, now you've done it," Cally giggled.
"I just thought, given… given some of your history with jail-cells - "
"Dear gods, what have I married," Anders chimed in piously. Kara smirked at him, and Diana got the feeling he'd known exactly what he was marrying.
Sam was saying something about everyone doing things they weren't proud of; Diana heard the placating tone, but couldn't bring herself to listen to the words. Sam had been in the Circle with them, but had left before Gaeta. Because of Gaeta, actually. She wondered if Gaeta knew that, or even suspected what she had done in bringing Starbuck in to take Sam's place.
"Maybe you're right," Starbuck conceded. "Maybe I want to make sure my second home is well-constructed."
"Well, I suppose I can drink to that," Gaeta said, clinking glasses with her like they were old friends. And they were, Seelix thought. They all were, though some of them had never had much to do with each other aboard ship. But now the war was over, there was a bond between those who'd fought together, whatever their differences might be. Diana gazed around the table, trying to form an image in her mind that would last: Cally and Chief, Starbuck and Anders. Jean Barolay, who never said much but always seemed to be thinking. Felix Gaeta, with his awful suit and stubborn hopes. It was probably the ambrosia making her sentimental, but she wanted to remember them like this.
"Food's ready," Barolay said, dropping the pot of algae on the table and making her jump. Gaeta went off to dispose of his charts, while Sam grabbed an extra bowl and left in the opposite directing. Everyone else dished up and ate in silence.