summary: challenge response: helo/boomer. starbuck made it in. (woo starbuck!)
a/n: written for grass_stained on lj, who wanted h/b and strawberries. or socks. or something surprising. i got at least two in.
with thanks to pen.
Sharon’s mother had once told her that the way to feel confident in the face of terrifying social situations was to act confident. Sharon had been eight at the time, the particular occasion had been her first music recital and she’d thought then that that piece of advice was the most ridiculous she’d ever heard.
Surveying the crowd of pilots packing the bar to the brim and overflowing into the street, Sharon thought that not a lot had changed in fifteen years. Her hands were still icy cold and clammy with sweat and her mother still didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Sharon?” someone asked at her elbow, and she turned.
The man stuck his hand out. “Helo. I’m your ECO.”
She took it as if it was a lifeline. His grip was firm, warm and he smelt of cigar smoke. “Boomer. How did you know it was me?”
“Intuition,” Helo said, grinning and she smiled back, looking him over. Jeans, black tanks, dog tags, cropped hair. Cute, she decided.
He took her silence for scepticism. “Okay, actually, I saw you earlier today signing in, but I had to be somewhere, so. Yeah.” He gave her a sheepish grin. “Having a good night?”
She hesitated. “Well – ”
“Oh, I keep forgetting. You wouldn’t know anyone.”
“Well, we can fix that.” He looked around, stared into the dance floor and his face changed. “Stay here,” Helo told her, and disappeared into the crowd. Sharon stood awkwardly next to the bar and tried not to look at her watch.
“Can I get you anything?” the bartender asked, giving her a cursory glance and Sharon shook her head.
Just as she was shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other, Helo emerged and looked around for her. Spotting Sharon, he grinned and moved towards her, and she noticed he was pulling a blonde woman over by her elbow. Their voices cut over the heavy beat of the music.
“No frakking way, Helo,” the girl was saying. “You – ”
“I can smell trouble a mile away, Buck – Sharon, this is Starbuck.”
“I’ve heard of you,” she said without thinking, and Starbuck looked amused, and Sharon felt the heat rise in her face and wanted to go home, back to flight school or Troy or somewhere she felt like she belonged, instead of a dimly lit bar crowded with strangers who all knew where they were going.
“Most people have,” Helo said, throwing a casual arm around Starbuck’s shoulders. “For one reason or another.”
Starbuck rolled her eyes, but didn’t deny it.
Not that there would have been a point. No pilot could get through flight school without hearing about Starbuck at least once; her name was still at the top of the makeshift roll of honour in the sims room, the fastest, most accurate pilot in the memory of all but the oldest lecturers. No one knew exactly why she’d been posted to the Galactica, the old, worn out Battlestar next in line for retirement, but the rumours still circulated, curled across space and into the pilot’s rec room every now and then.
An awkward silence descended and Starbuck looked back at the dance floor.
“Don’t even think about it,” Helo said, shoving her with one arm.
“I was not in trouble.”
“No. You were about to cause it.”
“Don’t start with me, Buck, I know you.”
There was such a very-long-suffering note in Helo’s voice that Sharon laughed, and Starbuck glanced at her, eyes sparkling.
“He would have deserved it,” she said and Helo laughed.
“I’m not arguing that,” he said. “But it’s too early, Buck. Wait at least another two hours.”
“Fine." She shoved her hands into her jeans pockets. “Two hours it is.”
Sharon laughed. “Is it always this exciting?”
“Sure." Starbuck winked. “If it’s not, we just make it. Helo, your round?”
“I bought the last one.”
Helo sighed, dug his wallet out from his pocket and surveyed the contents. “What are you having?”
“The usual,” Starbuck told him, planting her elbows on the bar and smiling at the bartender.
“Oh, I’m fine. I – “
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Starbuck said airly. “Get her what I’m having,” she told Helo.
He snapped out the order to the bartender, who poured some kind of frothy beer for Helo and set it on the counter with two glasses of distinctive green alcohol.
Sharon took her glass off the counter, and sipped. The ambrosia bit at the back of her throat and she had to work at keeping her face impassive, but it sent warmth tingling through her body, and she sighed.
Starbuck grinned, clinked Sharon’s glass with her already half empty one. “Ambrosia. Best thing for scary social situations.” She paused, tilted her head on one side. “I think my mother told me that once.”
* * *
Starbuck lasted three more hours before she threw her first punch, and Helo grinned at Sharon as he got to his feet. “I’m impressed,” he said over his shoulder. “An hour more than I told her. Come on!”
“Where are we going?”
“Out of here,” Helo said, and dove into the melee and dragged Starbuck out of it, just as security closed in. The three of them pelted out of the door, down the sidewalk at a run, and the sound of their feet slapping against the concrete was loud in the three am silence.
They made three streets and two corners before Starbuck stopped, slouched against a tree and started laughing and laughing, sliding down until she was sitting on the grass. It was contagious.
“Is this normal?” Sharon asked, when she could breathe again.
Starbuck nodded. “Sometimes they even chase us,” she said, and Helo laughed, nudged her with his foot. He had one blue sock on and one black, Sharon noticed, and she grinned.
“Remember that time we would have run about five miles before they gave up?”
“Gods, yes. What did I do that time?”
“Beat that guy at Triad.”
“There have been many games of Triad.”
“No, the one with that tattoo, remember? He was from Picon, that engineer, with the biggest arms I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh, yeah. That guy. I thought he was going to kill me.” She laughed. “That was fun.”
Helo got to his feet, offered his hand to Sharon, and she let him pull her to her feet. Starbuck ignored him, clambered to her feet and swayed. "Ohh," she said, leaning against the tree, and then suddenly seemed to notice the large, strawberry smelling patch on her jacket. She pulled the material away from her with a disgusted look.
“Why do people buy those things?” she asked. “I’ll be sticky for the rest of the night.”
“There isn’t much night left,” Sharon said, and shivered.
“Cold?” Helo said, and she shook her head, but he was already shrugging out of his jacket. It was warm and smelt like aftershave and came almost to her knees. He reached out and pulled the collar up, and she pulled her hair out.
“You are the hero tonight, aren’t you?” Starbuck asked. Her voice was warm and sleepy.
“How many times have I saved your ass, Buck?”
“Lots.” Starbuck nodded slowly, as if solving a particularly hard problem involving vipers and fuel and speed. “Yeah. A lot. Heaps.”
“She’s only appreciative when she’s drunk,” Helo said into Sharon’s ear, and Starbuck laughed.
“First rule of Helo, Sharon,” Starbuck said, draping her arm around Sharon’s shoulder and whispering conspiratorially. “Don’t believe a thing he says.”
“I’ll remember that.” Sharon watched in amusement as Helo rolled his eyes.
“We should – go somewhere.”
“Where? It’s three in the morning.”
“Somewhere that sells coffee.”
“I think it might be time for you to sleep, Buck,” Helo said, shooting Sharon a grin over Starbuck’s head. “Where are we?”
“Astoria Street,” Sharon read off the street sign. “Wherever that is.”
“We should ask for directions,” Starbuck said sleepily.
Sharon and Helo looked around at the deserted sidewalk, and then burst into laughter.
It took them nearly an hour to get home.
* * *
“Should we have made her drink water or something?” Sharon whispered, as they shut Starbuck’s hotel room door.
“Nah,” Helo told her. “She’ll wake up at midday fine. She’s used to it.”
Sharon nodded. “Well, thanks,” she said. “I should get to bed.”
“Where are you staying? Here?”
“No, at the one a block over.”
“I’ll walk you.”
“I’ll be fine. It’s just a block – "
He slid his arm through hers. “It’s late. I am walking you home.”
She rolled her eyes, grinned. “Fine.”
The air outside was colder and she could feel her cheeks flushing red as they crossed the street in silence. Helo was warm beside her, her arm still linked through his, and she grasped at something to say.
“Is Starbuck really that good? I mean, at flight school – "
“Yeah, she is.” Helo shrugged. “She’d be the best almost anywhere.”
“Why did she end up on the Galactica?”
He didn’t say anything for a moment. “Just one of those things,” he told her, finally.
“Oh.” She paused. “So, you and Starbuck – ” Helo looked confused and she gestured with her hands. “Are you two … "
“Oh, gods no.” He laughed. “Starbuck’s like my sister. A really bratty little sister who gets into fights all the time.”
“So I gather.”
“But she’s fun. You’ll like her.”
Sharon thought of Starbuck’s easy smile and laugh, and the way she’d dragged Sharon out onto the dance floor to dance with her squadron. “I do.”
“Don’t believe a word she says about me.”
She laughed. “I’ll have to work on that. And this is me,” she said, looking at the brick complex, letting go of him. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The jasmine covering the wall was making the air smell sweet, and his arms were covered with goose bumps. “Oh, your jacket – "
“No, leave it. I’ll get it off you tomorrow,” he said, and then paused. “Breakfast?”
She pushed her hair back behind one ear. “Sure,” she said. “When?”
“Ten? I’ll come by and pick you up.”
“I’m room 15A.”
“Cool. So - "
“Ten it is.”
"I won't be early," he said, and grinned. "Mom always said that was rude."
She laughed, watched him walk away. Tried not to stare at his ass. "She was right," she called after him, and he half-turned on the curb.
"Arn't they always?" he said, and threw her a jaunty salute.
Her hands were warm.