Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 11 December 2005
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: PG-13, I guess
Summary: A late night conversation
Spoilers: Passing reference to Colonial Day
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW05
Disclaimer: "Battlestar Galactica," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Ron Moore, David Eick, SciFi, R&D TV, Sky TV, and USA Cable Entertainment LLC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes.
"Why are there two?" Laura asked as she lazily ran her thumb along the chain around Kara's neck, inexplicably enjoying the staccato noise her thumbnail made as it progressed along the tiny bumps of metal.
"Hmmm.....two what?" Kara responded, still lost in a haze of contented sleep and residual arousal.
"Dogtags. I mean, I know that your tags are your identification, but civilians don't carry two ident cards, so why are there two of these?" she asked, fingering the small six-sided discs.
Laura was still learning everything she needed to know about the military and all the nuances of its day-to-day regimen. Captain Apollo had been invaluable in helping her learn how to interact with the military personnel that surrounded her and he had helped guide her through the major situations that had arisen, but, still, small questions about military life would pop into her mind to which she felt stupid not knowing the answers. Kara was the only one with whom she could let down her defenses and ask simple things.
"It's for when I die," Kara answered in a matter-of -fact, though still slightly sleepy voice.
"What?" Laura's hand stilled.
"The second dogtag," Kara replied with a yawn. "When I die, the ranking officer takes one for his records and the other one stays with my body so I can still be identified no matter how mangled my remains might be."
"That's morbid." She had thought that, perhaps, the two tags were just another form of random redundancy that she had found annoyingly pervasive in military life. She had never imagined the reason would be so distastefully practical.
"You asked," Kara said with a shrug.
Laura closed her eyes. Death was a subject that she tried very hard not to think about. It was too frightening -- too paralyzing. Intellectually, she knew her own death was, according to Doctor Cottle, only a few months away, but she was doing her best to deny the reality of the cancer that was slowly eating its way through her body. Yet, despite her fervent denials, death was a specter that loomed over her every action. "Do you think about it a lot?"
"My dogtags?" Kara asked with a teasing smile.
Laura shook her head and said quietly, "Dying."
Kara's smile vanished as she looked at Laura carefully, knowing that the conversation had taken an unexpectedly serious turn. "Sure, I do. Every time I get in my Viper."
"I don't know how you do it," Laura said with a sigh. To hear Kara talk so casually about her own death was disturbing, although she knew that, for the combat pilots, more than anyone else in the fleet, death was a constant shadow hanging over their heads.
"Training. The first thing I tell nuggets is 'every time you get in your ship, assume you're already dead.' It's easier that way." Kara frowned at just how unfeeling she sounded, but she had learned a long time ago that fear was a pilot's worst enemy and the quickest way to an early grave.
"How could that possibly make anything easier?" Laura lifted herself up on an elbow so she could look Kara in the eye.
Kara shrugged. "The dead can't feel fear. They can't freeze up in a battle because the worst thing that could possibly happen to them already has. The minute you let your fear control you, you're done for. In a battle you have to act and react. The most devastating thing you can do is nothing. Assuming your already dead clears your mind. It's hard to explain. It's just a trick you learn to play on yourself. It gives you the courage to do what needs to be done. You don't have anything left to lose, so nothing can stop you from completing your mission."
"I never thought about it that way." Laura immediately started to wonder if her own fear was holding her back -- keeping her from making the decisions she needed to make. She had been so consumed with denying what was happening to her, she had never stopped to think that acceptance of her situation might bring with it clarity and a renewed sense of purpose. Before she could fully consider that line of thinking she heard Kara's voice.
"Of course there is another, much more romantic, reason we have two dogtags," Kara drawled slowly, wanting, more than anything, to remove the pensive look from Laura's face.
Laura smiled as she heard the teasing tone return to Kara's voice, consciously shaking off thoughts of her own death. "A closet romantic , huh? A tough-as-nails Viper pilot like you?"
Kara grinned at Laura's gentle teasing. "Don't tell anyone. I'll deny it with my very last breath."
Laura laughed and continued to tease Kara. "Does the CAG know you're such a softie?"
Kara snorted. "Apollo? He wouldn't know romance if it bit him on his very toned ass."
Laura raised an eyebrow. "And just how do you know he has a very toned ass?"
"It is a co-ed locker room, Madame President. A girl can't help but look at the other pilots'....attributes," Kara said with a grin. "Besides, looking never hurt anybody."
Laura frowned and said, "I'm not sure I want other people looking at your attributes."
"So I should pull out of the calendar this year?" Kara asked with a furrowed brow.
"Calendar?" Laura asked.
"Yeah. 'Beneath the Flightsuit: The Pilots of Galactica'. We do it every year. It's great for morale. I was going to be the centerfold."
Laura's brain came to a complete halt as it tried to process what it had just heard and envision a pin-up calendar featuring the Defenders of the Fleet. "Are you serious?"
"No. Not at all." Kara could no longer keep her poker face in check and let out an uncontrolled laugh. "You're so easy."
"I'll show you easy," Laura said in mock anger as she pinched Kara on the hips with both hands. "No. No calendar. No centerfolds. No way. That's an order, Lieutenant. This body is all mine."
"I love when you're possessive. It's very sexy." Kara leaned down and captured Laura's lips in a series of kisses that lasted for several minutes.
When they finally parted, Laura sighed and said, "You're trying to change the subject."
"Is it working?"
"Yes," Laura said before peppering Kara's neck with soft kisses, occassionaly reaching out her tongue to taste the younger woman's skin. Laura heard a satisfied hum come from Kara as she worked her way down the blonde's neck. On the path downward Laura's attention was, once again, captured by the metallic discs that hung from the chain around Kara's neck. "Wait," she said, lifing her head from her task. "What's the reason?"
"The reason for what?" Kara opened her eyes and blinked in confusion.
"This alleged romantic reason you have two dogtags. You're not going to get away without giving me an answer, Kara."
"Oh....um....right. I'll tell you later. Just keep doing that thing with your tongue," Kara said trying to calm her breathing.
"Not a chance," Laura said with a smile.
"You heard me, Lieutenant. If you want anymore of this," Laura paused to take a nipple in her mouth and suck gently before continuing, "you have to answer my question."
Kara looked at the older woman with a pout. "You drive a hard bargain."
"Well, if I've learned anything during this summit, it's the value of a strong negotiating position," Laura said before placing one final kiss between the younger woman's breasts. "Talk."
"Well, if you're gonna be that way," Kara sighed. "OK, then. When you you leave someone you....care about -- on a mission or whatever -- it's sort of traditional to give one to that person."
"Someone you care about. You mean, a lover?"
"Not necessarily. It could be a family member, a parent or sibling. Or it could just be a friend, anyone who gives you a little hope."
"Why?" Laura asked, although she had a sinking feeling she knew why soldiers would want to leave something of themselves behind.
"Two reasons really. First, it's a promise. You're saying, 'Hang onto this for me because I'll be back'," Kara said almost shyly.
"And the other reason?"
"So that person will still have a part of you if something happens and you can't come back."
"Have you ever given one to someone?" Laura tried to ask casually, although they could both hear a hint of jealousy in her studied tone.
"No," Kara said quietly.
"I've never felt strongly enough about anyone, I guess. Not even Zak. I don't know. I mean, if my dad had been alive, I probably would have given one to him, but he wasn't so I never really saw the point. Besides...." Kara trailed off staring at a distant point on the far wall of Laura's cabin on Colonial One.
"Besides?" Laura asked softly.
Kara let out a long breath. "Besides...no one else would have cared if I came back."
Laura looked at the sadness in Kara's eyes and, once again, silently cursed her lover's mother for injuring such a gentle soul and instilling such low self-esteem in her daughter. Laura took one last look at the dogtags and made a decision. "Give them to me."
"Just give them to me," Laura said sternly, raising her eyebrows.
"Well, since you're using your 'schoolmarm' voice..." Kara leaned up, pulled the chain over her head and placed it in Laura's outstretched hand.
The chain and the tags seemed heavier than Laura had expected them to be. She wasn't sure if that discovery was because of their physical weight or the magnitude of what she had just been told. She eyed the tags curiously, thinking of the powerful duty for which they were meant -- the last voice to confirm or disprove the identity of one of society's fallen heros. A shiver ran through her as she thought of all the soldiers that had been lost, knowing that the only thing many people had left of their spouse, lover, child, brother, sister or friend was a piece of metal no bigger than the middle of her palm -- the only remnant of a life spent defending something of great importance.
Kara watched as Laura took one dogtag off the chain and, at the older woman's silent request, raised her head again, allowing Laura to return the chain and lone dogtag to their rightful place around her neck.
"What are you doing?" Kara whispered reverently.
Laura looked at Kara for a long moment before replying, "I want you to have a reason to come back."