"Better?"

He shrugged, smiling.  It felt, even from his side of it, a faint smile.  He hadn't spoken to Adama for – how long?  It couldn't have been that long.  It hadn’t been that long since it happened, but he was already getting out of the habit of talking much.  The past was quiet and done with, and he was beginning to like the silence. 

The dead were in the silence.

He had to clear his throat before he spoke.  "Fine, thank you."

Adama nodded, and came to stand beside him, shoulder to shoulder.  The commander was a tall, solid man, broader than his son.  The warmth of the shoulder against his was comforting.  For a long time they looked out of the viewport, watching the silent stars slip past them, moving slowly into the frame at the left hand side and slipping away into oblivion on the right hand side.

"Then what I should be asking," said Adama, "is are you coping?"

He shrugged again.  "I guess."

"I'm told it gets better.  I've never been convinced about such paltry things as aphorisms, but work does seem to help.  At least for me it means I can stop thinking for a while."  Adama laughed softly.  "And Boxey helps."

He smiled, meaning it this time.  Yes, he was grateful for Boxey and the distraction Boxey offered.  "He needs a lot of attention, doesn’t he?  I'd forgotten how much, not when I wasn't the only one looking after him.  I'm glad you and Athena are there to help."

"He's my grandson," said Adama, simply.  "Family.  I promised that when  - "

He made himself say her name.  "When Serina was here."

"Yes," said Adama.

He watched idly as his hand clenched.  The name still had the power to move him, to make the emotion well up inside him.  "It's all right.  I promised I'd look after him, if need be.  I just wasn't expecting to have to make good on that promise, you know."

Adama nodded and half turned, leaning against the thick tylinium window, folding his arms across his chest.  With some people that could look aggressive.  The Commander just looked as if he were making himself comfortable, holding his much vaunted composure behind his crossed arms.  "No parent ever does.  You always hope that it will always be both of you."  It was his turn to shrug.  "Although in our case, I had to leave Ila alone so much..."

"Not your fault.  It's the job."

"A job I walked into with my eyes open and expected my family to help pay the price.  It was a huge price, in the end, when I got it so badly wrong."

"Well, that wasn't just you and you tried to stop it.  The whole Council got it wrong."

"And we all paid the price."  Adama sighed.  "Four yahrens, and I still miss her."

"That's not very encouraging.  Or very consistent with what you said about time making it all better."

"I think I said that I'd been told that time makes it better."  There was a gleam of wry amusement in Adama's eyes.  "I've no personal proof that it does."

"Not at all encouraging."

"No," said Adama, slowly.  "I'm sorry.  I try, but I don't think I am encouraging."

"Just enduring," he said, with another faint smile. 

"Enduring?" said the Commander.  He added, unsmiling, "Not a warm and endearing characteristic."

He tilted his head in acknowledgement of the point, and considered it.  "I think it depends on your point of view.  Boxey finds you comforting, and so does Thenie, I think.  I do.  The whole ship looks to you.  There's something about not changing that comforts the rest of us."

Adama was silent, frowning.  "I hope that you don’t think that I'm untouched by all of this?"

Untouched?  How could anyone be untouched by this death? 

"Of course not," he said.  "Everyone knows what this means to you.  What I meant was that you have a faith that I don't, and that many people don't, that keeps you going.  We get our faith second hand, through you.  You keep us going."

"Oh dear," said Adama.  "That would have made him laugh."

"Yeah, well.  Maybe he wasn't the most uncritical member of your congregation."

"I didn’t think you were, either."

"You accepted me and what I am," he said, simply.  "Without argument."

"No," said Adama.  "Not entirely without argument.  But in the end, I changed on that one thing.  You two were good together, better than I could ever have expected.  You comforted each other when it was necessary.-"

"Boomer," he said, and nodded.  Losing Boomer had been hard, but not as hard as this.

"We still miss Boomer," agreed Adama.  "You made each other happy.  I'd almost given up on seeing him happy.  I'd begun to think that he never would work out what it meant."

"Not stupid, precisely,"  he said, in memory of Boxey so long ago, and his sight blurred.  "Just slow."

"Willing to learn, though."  Adama looked at him carefully, and turned again, blocking out the stars, stooping slightly to look him in the eye.  "I wanted to say that one thing doesn't change.  You're still my son.  You always will be."

He nodded, unable to speak. 

"It's going to be hard today, saying Farewell," said Adama.  "I don’t think he wanted anything like this."

"He never liked a fuss," he agreed.  The room behind him was filling up.  He could hear the subdued talking and rustling.

Adama sighed and straightened.  "Almost time."

He choked, the pain unbearable. 

The Commander took a step towards him and pulled him into his arms.  It meant a lot, that embrace, because Adama was not a demonstrative man, not in public.  In that, he and his son had been very alike.  Adama's hand lifted to smooth back Starbuck's hair, the gesture of affection he'd always used with Apollo.

"I think I'll need your comfort now, Starbuck," he said.  "If you can spare me some."

June 2005