We have to make choices. Every order we give, every shot we take, could mean the difference between survival and extinction.
'What the frack!' Willow thought as she stared unbelievingly at her Viper, or more to the point, she stared at the new plaque beneath her cockpit window.
And as she kept staring at her Viper, her mind went back three days and the last time she'd been together with Tara.
They'd been kissing passionately when Tara had very abruptly ended the kiss. Willow still remembered this kiss as one of the most passionate kisses she and Tara had ever shared with each other - outside Tara's quarters that is.
"What is it baby?" Willow asked her still frozen in place girlfriend and she turned around to see for herself if there was something or someone that would explain the unexpected change in Tara's demeanour. But there was nothing to see, nothing but an empty hallway. Willow turned back to Tara, who had taken a step away, her arms automatically folding around her torso, a protective motion of Tara's Willow knew.
"What was it Tara?" Willow asked again when her girlfriend didn't answer right away.
"Oh, probably nothing", Tara answered evasively, unsuccessfully trying to hide how very nervous she really was.
"Tara", Willow said carefully, trying not to take a step towards Tara, who she felt would only shy way from her now, "we've been honest with each other until now. Please don't change that when I can clearly see that something has frightened you." Slowly the young Viper pilot advanced upon Tara, who hesitated but didn't step back. She reached for Tara's hands, untangling them from in front her chest. Holding Tara's hands gently in her own she asked: "You saw something or someone right?"
"I'm not sure", Tara whispered, moving Willow deeper into the dead end hallway. "When I opened my eyes."
"Like you always do first when we're kissing", Willow observed teasingly, but Tara spoke on, like she hadn't heard or had chosen not to hear her lover's remark.
"I thought I saw, no it was more like I caught the gimps of a movement from the corner of my eye. But when I looked closer there was no one there."
"You think that someone might have seen us kissing?" Willow asked sceptically. She couldn't believe that anybody would remain silent when spotting two woman kissing they way they had been.
Or maybe they had been seen by somebody who did not mind. After all, Willow wanted to believe that not everybody aboard this Battlestar was like completely homophobic.
For some time now Willow thought that she and Tara should no longer hide their feelings for each other. After all they were just two people who'd fallen deeply in love with each other. - They were in love! What could possibly be wrong about that? Still Tara seamed utterly terrified by the thought that Willow should go through the same awful experiences, like she had on Gemenon. But this wasn't Gemenon or any other of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, this was one Battlestar - if not the only Battlestar - still in existence and a bunch of ships harbouring what was left of humanity.
'We should no longer hide.' Willow thought defiantly, 'there will never be the perfect time to come out, so why not come out here and now? Why not release me from my promise?'
Just as she wanted to voice her thoughts to Tara, the PA system cut into the ever growing silence between them by announcing: "Secretary Maclay, Secretary Maclay! Please report to the port hangar bay, section BA 19 immediately. I say again..."
"I've got to go", Tara said rather hastily, "I'm sure I've only imagined things."
Willow nodded slowly and just wanted to kiss Tara goodbye, but the hurrying secretary of education just shook her hand and in walking away she said. "See you when I return after Colonial Day, don't do anything rush while I'm gone."
And gone she was, leaving behind a completely bewildered Willow asking herself what the hell had just happened.
The following uneventful next days, convinced Willow that Tara had really only imagined someone seeing them. Still she felt that even if they hadn't been seen, they should rather come out by themselves then being spotted in the open. All this need for hiding what she was feeling for this gently blond girl, was starting to take it's toll, made her feel like she and Tara really were doing something forbidden, unnatural, dirty. And then there was the lying, and if not lying then not exactly telling the truth, especially keeping Buffy from knowing how much she loved Tara.
Then suddenly, everybody knew, or at least to Willow it felt like they did.
Nobody actually confronted her, or said anything. But when she walked down Galactica's hallways, it felt to her as if people could see it on her - like a brand, or a flashing "L" on her chest. Willow felt eyes that lingered a little too long, judging her, maybe even casting her out. With all that going on around her, Willow no longer felt that coming out would be as easy as she might have imagined it, at least not if it came to coming out aboard this Battlestar. She even started to get afraid that if Buffy found out she would not only freak, but maybe even denounce their friendship, and so to her own shame Willow started to avoid her friend and former wingman as much as possible. 'Better not seeing her at all', she thought, 'for as long as we don't meet, I don't have to lie to her anymore.'
Of course this wasn't an solution either and so, while on her way down to the hangar bay for today's patrol together with 'Rogue' and 'Night-stalker' - 'Mouse' had the day off - Willow considered that despite the promise she made to Tara, she should tell Buffy as soon as possible: 'After all, if you can't trust your best friend, whom can you trust?', she thought as she came close to her Viper.
"Specialist!" Willow called out to the technician standing right next to her Viper's starboard wing taking notes on a clipboard. He didn't react and so Willow called him once again, a little bit louder this time. There was no way he hadn't heard her this time, and when he still did not turn around it became obvious to Willow that he was deliberately ignoring her - an officer!
Willow had never been the person to insist on titles and military protocol, when it came to dealing with crew members or non-enlisted officers like Chief Tyrol; but only as long as the respect was mutual on both sides which was clearly not the case with this particular specialist.
"Specialist!" Willow yelled, remembering all of her command training from way back at war college and putting all of it into her 'command voice'. And with even some of the other people in the vicinity turning around, there was now no way for this specialist to carry on ignoring her. Knowing that himself he turned around, but in doing so he displayed a rather bored, if not disrespectful look on his face.
"Yes", he said, sounding even more bored then he looked.
'Only yes,' Willow thought. Not 'Yes Sir,' as protocol would've required him to say. Ignoring this for the moment, Willow waited until he had come over to her.
"Would you be so nice to explain to me what happened here?" she neutrally asked.
"Happened what?" he returned the question, his voice dripping with hidden disrespect. Who did this guy think he was, Willow asked herself while trying to remember his name, so she could address him properly. Warren something she knew, for she remembered Xander telling her about him. A genius when it came to working with machines and computers, but otherwise a total Frack.
"About this!" Willow said impatiently and pointed to the newly replaced name plaque under her Viper's cockpit, that stated the Viper's pilot being:
"It's the same as ever."
The sheer tone of voice with that he uttered his opinion made Willow's blood boiled. "No it's not! cause until yesterday it used to say 'Red'!"
"You sure about that?"
"Are you telling me, I'm not remembering my own call sign?"
He didn't answer and Willow took a closer look upon the plaque, and saw that someone, presumably this Warren fellow, had gone through the trouble of fabricating two entirely new and genuine plaque's and then replaced the old ones. It was unbelievable. She just wanted to ask him once again; when, on turning her head back she realized that Warren had used the time she'd been observing the plaque to turn his back on her.
"I asked you a question!" Willow bellowed after him, enraged by his undisciplined behaviour.
"Well then I say you have to answer it yourself, Lt. Lezzy", he replied and started walking away. Now that was a verbal blow Willow had not seen coming and it took her a long moment to realize what she'd heard this little frack calling her. And even though he'd been walking away from her, he'd been loud and clear not only for her but for almost anybody in the landing bay to hear.
True she was a lesbian or Lezzy as he phrased it, but that didn't mean that he had the right to insult her like that. Not her as another human being and certainly not as a superior officer! Willow was just about to shred this ignorant little 'screw driver' to pieces, when a sharp and ice-cold voice cut through the impending silence of the hangar bay.
"Hold it right there, Mister Meers!"
This sharp and authority filled voice cut through the silence of the hangar bay, and made all the others in the bay turn their attention back to their respective works and brought Warren Meers to a dead stop. He slowly started to turn around. He still had this smug smirk on his face, but that soon vanished as he saw the person, who'd addressed him. As did Willow and upon turning around herself she found an infuriated Specialist Jessica Cally!
It was Specialist Cally all right, in her usual orange jumpsuit, her brunette hair put up into her typically ponytail and her beautiful face as always slightly mucky. Even before Willow had come out to herself she had found Cally a beautiful woman - in a cute kind of way.
This however was not the skilled, soft spoken specialist Willow knew, for the woman that stood right in front of her was tense like an electric current was surging through her body and her usually warm dark blue eyes were as cold as ice, ready to freeze hell itself.
Warren Meers however, Willow could see, wasn't completely intimidated just yet, a mere hint of a selfish grin was still visible on his face as he responded: "Yes."
"Yes what?" Cally asked sharply and Willow felt completely startled by the sheer un-Cally like force of authority in her voice, as was Warren.
"Yes Sir", he answered his voice more neutral this time.
Willow's mind paused for a moment.
There were no ranks among the specialists down here. Only Chief Galen Tyrol held the rank of chief petty officer and his deputy, or second-in-command, was a petty officer second class. But then neither Tyrol nor his deputy Prosna were around...
'Prosna's dead', Willow thought and remembered he was alongside Xander and the others killed in the fire aboard Galactica. Xander would've been next in line to succeed Prosna. And with both of them gone Tyrol had to choose a new deputy.
Willow's eyes darted to the collar of Cally's jumpsuit and there she spotted the obviously, because still shiny, and newly replaced rank insignias of petty officer 2nd class. So Jessica Cally was now a non-enlisted officer and thus the superior off this little frack named Warren Meers. "So what's the matter here?" The petty officer demanded to know, directing her question to Meers, while at the same time wordlessly indicating to Willow, that with her permission, she would handle the matter.
Willow nodded her approval, and turned around as Cally walked passed her and repeated her question, even more commandingly this time: "I asked you what's the matter here Mr Meers!" "She wanted me to explain the changed name plaque upon her Viper."
Her not Lt. Rosenberg, Willow noticed and her blood began to boil again, but she restrained herself from interfering right now, not wanting to undermine Cally's position of authority in front of Meers. v"And did you?"
"Since it's the explanation in itself."
"Because she's a Dyke?" Cally asked, her voice so completely neutral, that it made Willow wonder about which side she was actually on.
"Yes, because she's a Dyke", the specialist answered, his voice so oily it made Willow sick. He obviously believed he had the situation under control.
"And I suppose that's why you called her Lt. Lezzy as well?"
"And you have a problem with dyke's or lezzy's?"
Willow's eyes keep switching between Cally and Meers, the later one now having regained his self-rightness again as he sarcastically answered: "Yes I have, because this is a Battlestar and not a fracking gay bar! And they shouldn't be allowed around here!"
In that moment something deep within Willow wanted to pull her sidearm and shoot this son of a bitch right into his ugly head, while another - the more reasonable part of herself - asked: 'Why do they hate us so much?' And at the same time in her mind she began to see were Cally was leading him, or so she thought.
"So it seams to me Mister Meers", Jessica Cally said, her voice getting dangerously calm, "that you have a problem with me too, right?"
Confused Warren blinked, "Not with you sir, just with this dammed dirty dyke over there." He pointed at Willow, obviously not realizing that he was just putting himself straight in line for an immediate court-martial for offending a superior officer.
"Because she's a dyke", Cally repeated calmly.
'Now you tell him', Willow thought grimly. 'Tell him how much he's out of line here.'
Telling him she did, not just exactly what Willow had thought petty officer 2nd class Jessica Cally would tell him.
"Well guess what Meers", she whispered serenely, "I'm a dyke too."
Warren's jaw dropped to his breast and Willow's mouth too stood wide open. But she soon closed it again, as she noticed how Jessica, unlike Warren, had spoken the word Dyke with pride and dignity.
Warren however hadn't recovered from this disclosure and was still staring disbelievingly at the out and proud petty officer. "I tell you what Meers", she told him calmly and more loudly again, "I will not report this to the Chief and you know that if I did, he would hang your sorry ass out to dry in space; but only if you apologize to the Lieutenant right here and right now. And then I will think of an appropriate penalty for you too." She turned around to Willow, "only, of course, if the Lieutenant concurs that is."
Willow thought of it for a while and then nodded. "What ever you think appropriate will be fine with me, petty officer", she said. She was quiet sure that, what ever sort of penalty she could think of right now, was nothing compared to what Cally probably already had in mind for him.
Warren Meers took the hint and stepping in front of Willow he stood to attention and formerly said: "Lt. Rosenberg I apologize for my inappropriate behaviour to you earlier and I assure you I will not call you names again."
"I take your apology to notice Mr. Meers and if you keep to your word, I won't take this to the Chief either", Willow said then handed the matter back to Cally.
"I will take it from here Specialist", Cally informed Meers, "Dismissed!"
Meers saluted briskly, turned around and walked away, while Willow asked herself, 'did I make an enemy today?'
Stepping to Willow's side, Cally seamed to pick up on Willow's thoughts, "I wouldn't worry to much about Meers, Sir", she said in a sisterly warm voice, "I know guys like him. They always tend to react insecurely when confronted with people like us, and rather then dealing with us they prefer to insult us all together. However I assure you I can handle Mr. Meers and he will not trouble you again."
Willow was quiet amazed how easily Jessica Cally spoke about 'them' and 'us', after all herself she was still getting use to thinking of herself as a lesbian or being gay. Of course she had no problem being gay, just the merely, from outside opposed need to labelling herself as being gay, was beyond her. After all no one expected heterosexuals to go out telling people: "Hi, I'm hetero!"
"If I may say so Sir", Cally broke Willow's train of thought, "you're very lucky to be with someone like Dr. Maclay."
"You know?", Willow asked, wondering that of all people Cally should know who her girlfriend was, "since when?"
"Way back when you took Dr. Maclay for a ride with our Mark V", Cally answered, referring to Willow and Tara's first trip with Galactica's training Viper. "I could clearly see", she went on, "how much in love the two of you were."
"May ask you something Jessica?" Willow asked, choosing to call Cally by her given name to make clear that this was to be a private conversation.
"Please Willow, at least as long as we among us."
"Sure Willow", Cally said with a smile.
"How long have you been out?"
"Since age fifteen I think", Cally answered openly if not proudly. "At home everybody knew, whereas here only Xander and Prosna knew. Not that I deliberately stayed in the closed though, the others just never exactly asked me."
She paused for a moment to remember her fallen comrades.
"Oh and of course the chief knows too", she added with a grin, "but that's only after the last shortleaf when he and me, accidentally hit on the same girl."
"Really?" Willow asked unbelievingly , "who won?"
"Who'd you think?" Cally answered and suggestively wiggled her eyebrows.
"So you have a girlfriend?" Willow asked carefully, since there was a good chance that she might have lost her back on the colonies.
"Not now", Cally said, "my last girlfriend and split like a year ago, just a month after I got transferred to the Galactica. It was kinda hard anyway keeping a relationship while with the service and galloping around the solar system. But then," Cally added thoughtfully, "now everything has changed anyway hasn't it?"
Cally took up Meers's clipboard and started going through the pre start checklist while she continued talking to Willow. "But that doesn't mean that I have to give up on my hope of ever finding my special someone. After all you, me and the doctor can't be the only dykes in the fleet now can we? What?"
Willow had started looking rather questioning at the young petty officer, "Nothing Jessica. It's just, you speak a name like Dyke with so much pride and confidence, it's amazing", Willow said in honest admiration.
"Well, it's what I am", Cally answered with open pride and added with a sisterly voice, "As are you and Tara, granted in the 'dark days' dyke was used to offend us. But in the meantime we have claimed these names back and so you too should be taking pride in being a Dyke."
Willow thought about Jessica Cally's words, she certainly hadn't looked upon the matter like this and the petty officer slash dyke really had a point.
"I'm sure", Cally said, sounding more official now, "I know where Meers might have hidden your original plaques, shall I go and fetch them Sir?"
"No that won't be necessary", Lt. Rosenberg said, "its a good and proud call sign indeed."
"I already thought so Sir", Cally replied and smiled, before she went on to complete the pre start check up for Willow's Viper, while Willow went to change her call sign within the pilots manifest.
Following a short briefing with her fellow patrol pilots, 'Red-Dyke', 'Rogue' and 'Night-stalker' started to a luckily eventless patrol around the fleet.
"See you later in the officer's mess", 'Red-Dyke' called after the other two pilots. "But first I have to finish today's paperwork." And in her mind she added, 'and pay a short visit to an particular nice cat.'
'Red-Dyke' then handed the clipboard, with the first part of the mentioned paperwork back to Cally, and after she thanked the petty officer once more for her help and the meaningful conversation earlier, then she turned around to make her way to the briefing room.
Willow was just about to leave the hangar bay, when she spotted Buffy walking towards her own Viper - today the first two of her 'Potential's' would be making their premiere solo flights.
"Good hunting 'Slayer'", 'Red-Dyke' called over towards her best friend and was just about to say something else, when she caught the look upon her former wingman's face, that made her stop dead in her tracks. It was a look that made Willow's heart freeze and told her that Buffy already knew, knew the secret she'd been keeping from her ever since Ragnar.
There didn't seam to be any particular sign that Buffy was freaked about Willow's newly disclosed homosexuality. But even if there had been it wouldn't have been as heart wrenching as the look of disappointment... of utter disappointment that made Willow fear for their friendship - a friendship that had connected them throughout all those many years, as well as the very darkness of the past month.