The price of wearing the uniform can be high but... sometimes it's too high.
And all my Dreams Torn Asunder
Willow found herself back in hell.
Back in the burning Raptor. There where flames, smoke and electric discharges and Willow heard screams and moans all around her. 'Crashdown' was yelling at Gaius Baltar to get the hell out of there. Why was nobody yelling at her? She wondered, and Cally was nowhere to be seen. Not that Willow could see much anyway. One of her eyes was almost swollen shut and the other was full of tears because of all of the flames and smoke surrounding her.
Actually, it was only because of that smoke that Willow's eyes where all moist. She slowly opened her healthy left eye and the other one as much as possible. The first thing she could make out was smoke, lots of it, and beyond it a figure glad in white. Though standing with the back to her, Willow didn't need to see a face to know it was Doctor Cottle, Galactica's Chief Medical Officer. Who else but Doc Cottle would be smoking around sick and injured people!
"Isn't that nice," Willow mumbled. "I survive a Raptor crash, a trip through the forest of Kobol and an attack by Cylon Centurions; only to die of lung cancer because of passive smoking!" Hearing her words, Doc Cottle turned around.
"Well, look who has decided to wake up and join the party!" he said, cigarette between his lips, sending an extra puff right into Willow's face.
"Do you mind!" 'Red-Dyke' coughed.
"Actually I do," Cottle said and picked up Willow's chart.
"So Lieutenant, seems you've got yourself one nice little head trauma. Smooching with the dashboard when you brought down that Raptor didn't you?"
Willow gave the doc what she hoped to be a sarcastic smile.
"However that should in no way change you sunny little personality. The same goes for your eye. As far as I can say it should be back to normal within the next few days." He made a few notes on Willow's chart, then turned over to the next page.
"Now about your knee," he said, his voice suddenly serious. It was the complete change of tone that made Willow want to look under the covers to make sure her leg was still there, since she felt no pain emanating from it. Doctor Cottle gently placed his hand upon Willow's, keeping her from lifting the blanket.
"Willow," he said quietly. "From what I've seen, your knee has taken a lot. I imagine it had already been seriously injured from the crash and then it had to endure the long march through rough terrain. "I'm afraid, the bullet hit true, and made everything even worse."
He paused, giving his words time to sink into Willow's mind. "Right now," he eventually went on, "your knee looks like a bloody mess. I can't say if we will be able to save it or not. But I assure you we will do everything we can. I've asked Professor Kathryn Pulaski from the Muldaur to come over and have a look at your knee. She's the darn best orthopaedic surgeon I've ever met. If anybody can save your knee then it is her." He threw his cigarette to the floor and stepped on it.
"But Willow, you should prepare for the worst."
"And that would be?" Willow asked, her voice no louder then a whisper.
"That you might lose some if not all mobility in that knee," the doctor explained and added, "I'm sorry." Willow only nodded and felt tears dwell in her eyes.
"Now I'm afraid it will take another day until Dr Pulaski will be coming over. Until then I've stabilized the knee as good as possible." As if he was sensing Willow's ever growing despair, he gently added: "Just don't give up hope yet, Lieutenant."
He put the chart away and took a step towards the curtain separating Willow's bed from the rest of the infirmary. "Now, Lieutenant, I'm sure you would like to get some rest. But before you fall sleep, you have a visitor here see you." With that he threw away the curtain to reveal a very worried looking Tara. "There you go, Dr. Maclay," Doc Cottle said and then he and closed the curtain behind him.
"Hi you," Tara said with a warm smile.
Unable to say another word, Willow simply opened up her arms and with a few steps Tara was at her side, sitting down on the bed she took her girlfriend into a loving, protective embrace. Feeling safe and sound for the first time ever since she left the Galactica for that ill faded mission to Kobol, Willow let herself go and cried until her small body was ragged with sobs.
"It's alright, Willow," Tara whispered into her girlfriends ear. "I'm with you. I'll keep you save." Her hand kept moving soothingly over Willow's back, giving her all the comfort she needed. Tara kept holding Willow, until the redhead had cried herself to sleep.
Tara gently laid Willow back down again, and pulled the cover up to Willow's chin, and lovingly kissed her on her forehead. She then pulled up a chair and sat down next to her girlfriend, determined to let nothing take her away from her lover's side.
Willow woke up in the middle of the ship's night, notable by the slightly lowered lights in the infirmary. She turned to find Tara's head lying right next to hers on the pillow. Only the head though. The rest of Tara was sitting quite uncomfortable on a chair right next to her bed.
"Tara, honey, wake up," Willow whispered right into her lover's ear. With her left hand she gently brushed some hair out of Tara's face. She noticed a sizeable bruise right beneath her blond hairline. "Seems you had a rough time around here, too," she observed and considered asking Tara about it some time later.
"Honey wake up!" she whispered again, a little bit more urgent now, and very slowly Tara opened her eyes. To look into these deep blue eyes made Willow's heart beat faster.
"What is it Willow?" Tara whispered sleepily, "do you need something?"
"Yes," Willow answered and let her fingers slip through soft blond hair again. "I need a glass of water. And more importantly I need you to go to bed."
"But I won't leave you!" Tara protested and sat up, trying to not show, how much her back ached.
"You won't be leaving me, you're only going to your quarters to get some sleep," Willow pointed out. "Remember, the doc said that I should get some rest. And I can promise you, I will rest much better knowing you are sleeping in your warm and comfortable bed."
"But I won't be able to sleep without you snuggling me," Tara protested weakly.
"Well then you will have to let Miss Kitty snuggle you in my place."
"But it won't be the same!"
"I certainly hope so," Willow said with a broad grin on her bruised face. "After all I'm the very best snuggler in the entire fleet."
Only reluctantly Tara stood up and got her girlfriend a glass of water. She helped Willow drink from the glass she held.
"Thanks," Willow whispered. "Now be a good girl, kiss your girlfriend good night and go to bed. I promise I won't go anywhere." Tara did as asked, kissed Willow good night and following a long last look stepped through the curtain separating Willow's bed from the rest of the infirmary.
"Everything will be fine, once Dr. Pulaski takes care of your knee," Willow whispered to herself, trying to calm down her fears. Then she closed her eyes, knowing she would soon be asleep again.
'Everything will be fine,' she kept thinking, though somewhere back in the depth of her sub-consciousness, a small voice asked: 'But what if not?'
"Morning!" said a rested but still concerned looking Tara as she poked her head through the curtain.
"Morning;" Willow replied, her spirit lifted by the side of her lover who stepped in, hiding her right hand behind her back.
"You know, I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed, but unfortunately you have to remain with an empty stomach because of your pending surgery," Tara said and kept standing at the foot of the bed. "I also wasn't allowed to bring you flowers. Not that I thought of bringing any when I was at the Cloud Nine for the last time. And so I brought you this." She stepped up to Willow's side, and from behind her back produced a small delicate looking flower, made from different coloured cardboard. "A rose for my beautiful rose," she said with a smile and handed it to Willow.
"A paper rose!" Willow beamed, "oh thank you so much!" She careful turned the rose between her fingers, and smelled at the delicate formed paper blossom. "It even has an lovely odour, much like you."
"Well, I sprayed some of my perfume on it," Tara said and pullet up a chair to sit at her girlfriend's side.
"Come here!" Willow said and as Tara leaned close, she placed her left hand around Tara's neck and pulled her in for a passionate kiss. "Thank you for making me feel so loved." She kissed Tara again.
Holding the paper rose in one hand, and Tara's hand in the other, Willow sat upright in her bed. "So Madam Secretary," she said cheerfully. "Aren't I keeping you away from your work with you spending so much time at my side?"
"Not at all," Tara assured her. "The schools are running smoothly and..." She hesitated and Willow could tell that some things were not going great right now and so she asked: "And what Tara?"
"I'm not sure that I'm still the Secretary of Education," Tara concluded her statement.
"What happened?" Willow asked. "I mean since I left for Kobol?"
And so Tara told Willow how Commander Adama had relieved Laura Roslin of her presidency for sending 'Starbuck' on a wild ghost chase against orders. "She's supposed to bring the Arrow of Apollo back from Caprica," she explained. "Based on some old scriptures, Laura believes that it will point the way to Earth if they bring it to the Tomb of Athena on Kobol."
Tara then went on telling Willow how after Roslin refused to resign, Adama send in the marines to take her into custody. And how in due course, Lee Adama - 'Apollo' turned his weapon against Colonel Tigh who was leading the operation.
"So they are both in the brig now?" Willow asked unbelievingly. "But 'Apollo' lead the rescue mission to Kobol?!"
"Well, from what I gathered and remember I'm just a civilian around here," Tara said. "Captain Adama is sort of on probation. Which means he's out for missions and patrol only."
"Sounds all a little crazy to me," Willow mumbled under her breath. "Doesn't at all sounds like the old man to let things go out of control like that under his command."
"Well, he isn't in command right now," it spilled out of Tara.
"What do you mean by that?" Willow now demanded to know, having the distinct feeling that things weren't running too well aboard the Battlestar.
"He was shot, and seriously wounded," Tara said quietly.
"Shot? By whom?"
Tara hesitated again before she eventually said: "By 'Boomer'".
"'Boomer'? But she would never do such a thing! She served under him for the past two years!"
"She didn't exactly have a choice."
"She was a Cylon Willow," Tara said carefully. "A Cylon sleeper agent." It took Willow some time to process the information Tara had just given her. Commander Adama shoot, by one of his very own officers. 'Boomer' - a Cylon sleeper agent! Willow herself had served with Sharon 'Boomer' Valerie for the past year and now all of a sudden she's a sleeper agent.
'No, wait a minute,' Willow thought. 'Tara didn't say 'she is'... but 'she was a Cylon.' She just wanted to ask Tara about her particular choice of words when Doctor Cottle entered, followed by an older woman. Tara remained at Willow's side, holding her hand while Doc. Cottle made the introductions.
"Lt. Rosenberg, her girlfriend Dr. Maclay, the Secretary of Education," he said into an ever growing cloud of smoke emanating from his cigarette. This was soon taken from his mouth, flung to the ground and stepped out by the lady standing right next to him.
"And that ladies," he said wryly, "would be Doctor Kathryn Pulaski." He glanced from Willow to Dr. Pulaski and back again. "That would be your patient, Doctor. Lieutenant - good luck." He turned around, fishing in his lab coat pocked for a pack of cigarettes and had another one lighted and between his lips before he had stepped outside the curtain.
"Ok Lt. Rosenberg," Dr. Pulaski said and closed the curtain after Doc. Cottle again. "Let's have a look at your knee."
"Please call me Willow," the redhead asked.
"I'm Kate." The physician said and took up the folder with Willow's medical chart. Dr. Pulaski extracted some x-rays from the folder and held them to the light.
"When have those been taken?" Willow wondered.
"Yesterday", Tara told her.
"How come I don't remember?" She shook her head. "When was there even time to do x-rays anyway? It was already late in the evening when I returned to Galactica."
The look on Tara's face made Willow stop in her babble and reconsider her next question.
"How long was I out?"
"About one day and a half," Tara told her.
"And when I sent you to bed, that was?"
"Yesterday, early in the morning."
"So I slept trough an entire day and into the next?" Willow asked now feeling completely puzzled. Tara nodded. "Girl, I was tired of course. But I didn't realise I was that tired!"
"Well yes and no," Tara said and looked up to Dr. Pulaski for some backing, but the physician was occupied with studying the x-rays. "Doctor Cottle also gave you something to keep you asleep. He thought you could use the extra sleep."
"Well judging from these," Kathryn Pulaski said, putting the x-rays aside. "I'm afraid things are really serious. I won't bother you with the cryptic medical kinda details but try to keep it simple." Tara placed her arm around Willow's shoulder, to comfort both her and herself.
"Your knee joint got seriously injured from the crash landing, the ongoing stress of limping through the woods and of course from the bullet hit. The same is true for the soft tissue structures that stabilize and cushion your knee joint as well as for some of the muscles. Now I'm pretty confident that we will be able reconstruct the knee joint. But it is too early to make any prognoses about the soft tissue or the muscles. But I promise you I will do my best." She smiled assuring for both her patient and her girlfriend.
"However, there is the clear possibility that you might lose some mobility within your knee," she added sincerely.
Willow swallowed hard upon hearing this and snuggled a little bit closer to Tara.
"Now I will get ready, Medic Cheryl will come to take you to the operation room," Dr Pulaski told her and put her chart away.
"Can Tara stay with me?" Willow asked anxiously.
Kathryn Pulaski thought about it for a while before she said: "But only until you are asleep. After that she will have to wait outside."
"That's alright," Willow said relieved. "As long as Tara is the last thing that I see as well as the first thing when I wake up again."
Kathryn smiled thoughtfully upon this romantic display of two still newly in love. "I will go and tell Medic Cheryl to fetch you something to put over your clothes Tara. Now if you'll excuse me," she left and made her way to Galactica's operating room.
"Hold me," Willow begged and Tara took her frightened Redhead into her arms and they both found a little peace by simply embracing each other.
"Tell me something," Willow said after a while and looked down on herself. "Who changed me into this lovely hospital garb, that always leaves one's behind exposed?"
Tara gave Willow one of her famous half smiles when she answered: "I did."
"While I was asleep?"
"Did I resist?"
"Not at all," Tara said with a broad smile upon her lips. "Actually you where rather snuggly. I had to give you a kiss for every piece of clothing I took of you."
"You're kidding right?" Willow asked disbelievingly.
Willow was about to protest when Medic Cheryl entered the room. She handed Tara some scrubs and a cap to put onto her head. Then she wheeled Willow together with another medic who introduced herself as Christine Chapel over to Galactica's OR.
"You look good in green, Tara," Willow said while she and her girlfriend waited in the OR for the anaesthetist.
"Yeah," Tara said with a frown, looking up and down on herself. "Like a big green tit."
That remark was rewarded by Willow with a big laugh but then the redhead got serious again as the anaesthetist Dr. Karinna Perabo entered the room and took up position at the top side of the operating table onto which Willow had previously been laid.
"Time to send you to sleep, Lieutenant," she said and placed a mask over Willow's mouth.
"You will be there when I wake up, right?" Willow asked Tara, her voice muffled by the mask.
"I will be, promise," Tara answered and held on tight to Willow's shivering hand.
"I love you, Tara."
"I love you too, Willow," Tara said and kissed Willow on her forehead.
"If you would start counting down from ten please, Lt.," Dr. Perabo asked quietly.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven.., six..., five...., four....." All around Willow things got blurry and faded to black. The last thing she remembered was the velvet touch of Tara's hand holding her own.
Willow's mind gradually drifted back into consciousness again and the first thing she got aware of was the sensation of soft fingers caressing her hair. She certainly knew those fingers and what they could do.
"Mhm," Willow mumbled, "please don't stop Tara." Slowly opening her eyes, she looked up into Tara's deep blue ones.
"Hello again," Tara said with a beautiful, fragile smile upon her lips.
"How did it go?! Willow anxiously wanted the know.
"It lasted more then the expected three hours," Tara said and continued to gently stroke Willow's red hair.
"More than that I don't know. Dr. Pulaski is operating again right now. All I was told was that it would be another two hours. She will come to see you as soon as she's finished."
She tapped her wrist watch. "So it should be another hour and then we'll know more."
"So how's Commander Adama?" Willow asked to get her mind off her own medical condition.
"Fine," Tara said, obviously glad for a change of subject herself. "By now he's back in command. Working on putting the fleet back together again." She then told Willow about the other things that had happened, while she'd been out and asleep.
She told her girlfriend about the martial law imposed by Col. Tigh. They killed civilians when he send in the marines to get the food supplies from one of the civilian ships that refused to supply Galactica unless President Roslin was reinstated as president again. The next thing that happened was that Laura Roslin and 'Apollo' had escaped Galactica's custody. And together with one third of the fleet, they were on their way to Kobol. Laura Roslin hoped to meet there with 'Starbuck' who's expected to bring with him the Arrow of Apollo. The president hoped that if they brought this arrow to the Tomb of Athena that it would lead the way to Earth. By now, Tara told Willow everything. Adama too had set out for Kobol, in order to reunite the fleet again.
"Well let's hope they are successful," Willow said after she'd thought about it for a while. "In both reuniting the fleet and if possible, finding a way to Earth." They talked about this for a while.
"Were there any visitors while I was - you know, out?" Willow asked.
"Well, Buffy was here twice. Once right after you had come back and just after you returned from surgery," Tara said. "She'll be back, right after she has finished her shift."
"What about Cally, didn't she stop by?" Willow wanted to know. Tara only shook her head, but didn't answer.
"What happened?" The redhead wanted to know. After all she saved her life, back on Kobol.
Tara let out a long breath, clearly she hat not wanted to tell Willow about everything just yet. "Willow" she said slowly, "Cally is in the brig."
"Officially because she unauthorised discharged her sidearm."
"But that isn't all, I can tell," Willow demanded.
"No, it isn't," Tara admitted. "She shot 'Boomer' - killed her or sent her back into another body. Nonetheless Commander Adam sentenced Cally to thirty days in the brig. He also demoted her back to Specialist again."
Willow closed her eyes trying to process what she had just learned. 'Boomer' had shoot Adama, but luckily hadn't succeeded in killing him. 'Boomer' a Cylon sleeper agent, now shoot by Cally. But was that really murder? Given the fact that Cylons could not die. Willow's mind was spinning, this was really starting to blow her mind. She also felt that there was still more. More that Tara did not want to tell. She had to ask her later Willow knew since right in that moment Dr. Pulaski was entering the room. She was still dressed in her surgical clothes. Holding a clipboard in her hand she looked very serious.
Nervously Willow reached for Tara's hand and felt that her girlfriend was as worried as Willow herself. Doctor Kathryn Pulaski closed the curtains behind her, stepped closer and took a deep breath before she began.
"It was a long operation," she began, "Doctor Cottle and I did all we could, but..." Willow couldn't help but start shivering and Tara put her arm protectively around her.
"I'm sorry Willow," Dr. Pulaski went on. "But the damage to the knee joint was more severe than we thought and even though we managed to reconstructed it as good as possible..."
Willow didn't hear much beyond these first words, as the meaning of them started to sink into her mind. They had not been able to completely reconstruct her knee joint again. That alone told her that she would never sit in the cockpit of a Viper again. In combat alone you had to pull six, seven g's. And without a completely intact knee, she would not even be able to produce the necessary force to get the thrusters pedal to activate.
Her knee would never be whole again.
"Will I be able to walk again... on my own?" Willow asked, her voice sounding like broken glass.
"In time you will," Kathryn answered gently.
"For starters, yes. But later I think a cane will do," the physician answered. "If you're lucky, there might even come a time, when you can walk without any support."
"But I will limp!" Willow cried out bitterly. "And I will never ever fly again!"
By now Willow couldn't help it any more, and tears were running down her cheeks, wetting the nightgown beneath.
'I will never fly again,' she thought desperately. 'Will never be able to go out and defend the fleet from danger again.'
She was staring into a void and she no longer felt Tara's gentle caress upon her back.
"What am I if I can no longer do what I'm best at?" Willow asked whisperingly, but not the two woman present.
"I'm really sorry," Dr. Pulaski said again and started with further explanations but Willow interrupted her. "Thank you Kathryn. But if you don't mind I would really like to be alone now."
"Of course," Dr. Pulaski said. "If you have any questions, I will be aboard Galactica until tomorrow. And after that you can always call me aboard the Muldaur." She then said her goodbyes to both Willow and Tara and left the two woman alone.
Willow watched her girlfriend return to her side.
"Tara, I really need to be alone right now," she said quietly. She felt guilty for see a hint of hurt appear in Tara's lovely features but she couldn't help it. She really needed some time alone and she didn't know how to explain all of her current feelings to Tara.
"Tara, please," she begged.
Her girlfriend was about to protest, she could tell and so she added, "I'm sure I will be allowed to stay at your place after I they release me and... then we can talk, ok?"
Clearly torn between wanting to comply with Willow's wishes and her want to remain at her girlfriends side to comfort and shelter her, Tara stood looking questioningly next to her girlfriend.
'You're sure?' her blue eyes asked.
'I'm sure', Willow's green answered.
They both didn't say another word as Tara helped Willow to lie down again and lovingly pulled her cover up to her freckled chin. She kissed Willow gently on her lips and slowly stepped through the curtain, leaving her lover alone with the terrible news she'd just received.
For the next hour Willow kept staring at the ceiling. Not a single thought went through her head, she felt nothing. Nothing but emptiness that threatened to swallow her whole. Eventually she drifted into a black and dreamless sleep.
"You heard about 'Boomer'?
This question, uttered right behind her curtain, was the first thing Willow heard as she slowly woke out of her dreamless sleep. She recognized the voice. It was 'Kat', one of 'Starbucks' former nuggets and now among their best pilots.
"Yeah," another female voice answered, probably 'Racetrack'. "A frakking Cylon - you know I'm glad Cally shot that bitch!"
"I hear you," 'Kat' answered. "to think that we flew with her, fought the Cylons, only to find out she's a Cylon herself!" Obviously she didn't have the words to describe the feelings she had. "And if that wasn't bad enough, I just heard that we had another Cylon among us," she went on.
"Who?" 'Racetrack' replied disbelieving.
"'Rogue'," 'Kat' said sounding grim. "But luckily she's dead too. Seems she got sucked out into space when those Centurions boarded the Galactica."
"'Rogue' - a Cylon, too?" 'Racetrack' echoed and Willow swallowed hard upon hearing that another pilot she had been serving with turned out to be the enemy.
"Yeah!" 'Kat' answered. "Got uncovered by chance when she ran into an ex of her former life on Caprica. Took 'Slayer' hostage and tried to escape. But she didn't."
"What happened?" the other pilot wanted to know.
"Believe it or not, the ex - a civilian, grabbed her sidearm and following a short stand off, including a marine, took the shot and took her out."
By now Willow was sitting up right in her bed, and in her mind asked the same question, 'Racetrack' was asking out loud now.
"So who was this heroic civilian and 'Rogue's' ex?"
"You never going to believe this," 'Kat' giggled. "Turns out this Cylon's gay."
A very unpleasant thought forced it's way into Willow's mind.
"So her ex was?" inquired Racetrack.
"The Sec Ed."
"You mean...?" 'Racetrack began but got cut off by Willow crying out: