Title: Sacred Space
Characters: Gaeta/Dee; Laird (briefly)
Spoilers: vague season 3 references. Time setting indeterminate; sometime before the Demetrius
Summary: they lose much more sleep to late-night talking than they do from lovemaking
Note: Inspired by anonymousblu's astonishing creation for the gaeta_dee "Sacred Space" challenge. I stole some phrases from her description. Sorry it took me so long to write this, chica.
Dee arches an eyebrow at Felix across their tumblers of rotgut ambrosia, not sure she heard him clearly through the chatter of voices and wireless and the crash of the makeshift Pyramid game. "Libraries," she repeats, more of a statement than a question.
"Yeah." Felix smiles shyly, becoming for an instant an awkward middle school bookworm. Dee's distracted momentarily by the way his long, dark lashes brush his cheeks when he looks down at his hands. "I think I've read every book in the fleet at least twice by now," he says, bringing her attention back to their conversation. "Probably half a dozen times for the ones on Galactica. Gods, sometimes I'd give my right arm for two hours in the Library of the Colonies in Caprica City."
"Oh, I hope not," Dee replies. "I'm rather fond of both your arms." She slides a hand across the table to his, and their fingers curl together, his thumb gently brushing her knuckles. "What do you like to read most?"
His eyes roll upward, as if he's imploring the Gods to rain literature upon him. "A little of everything. Military histories, biographies of eminent scientists, mysteries..." There's a slightly pained look around his eyes as he adds, "Reading a mystery again is worse than reading the phone book. There's no more challenge in it."
"...No more mystery in it?" she can't help responding, but he laughs at her tortured pun, and she grins wickedly. He's been through so much—they all have; it's a blessing from the Gods to see him smile.
It occurs to Gaeta that night when Dee sighs next to him—nearly purring in sated contentment—that they haven't finished their earlier conversation. Despite the teasing from crewmates like Cally and Kelly, they lose much more sleep to late-night talking than they do from lovemaking. Sometimes Gaeta can think of no greater joy than sharing hopes and fears and their profound loss while wrapped in each others' arms. He shifts to press a soft kiss to Dee's temple. "You didn't tell me what you miss most," he murmurs.
She instantly knows what he's talking about. "I miss the ocean," she replies, hazel eyes gazing into the middle distance, alight with memory. "Being on the beach with my mother, on vacations back on Sagittaron. We'd go looking for shells. I remember the sun would be warm on my back as I hunched over, searching."
He finds he can easily picture her on a sun-drenched beach, light-colored sands the perfect counterpoint to expanses of dusky skin, which glows from sunscreen and contentment.
"What?" Dee interrupts his reverie.
He's reluctant to relinquish the image. "Yes?"
"You 'mmm'ed about something." One of her hands brushes ever-so-lightly up his bare flank, making him twitch. "Don't make me tickle," she threatens.
"I yield," he gasps, capturing her hand and clasping it against his breast. She snuggles against his side in response, resting her head on his shoulder as he admits, "I was imagining you in a skimpy swimsuit."
"Oh really?" Dee pulls her hand from under his and slaps him playfully. Her open palm against his chest makes a sharper noise than the effort she puts into the motion.
Gaeta merely grins and slides his hand from the small of her back to cup the smoothness of a buttock. "A sea shell is one of Aphrodite's symbols," he comments, changing the subject.
She squirms, but lets him get away with it, merely emitting a disgruntled "Hrrmm." Then she pushes herself up on one elbow to gaze down at him. "Earth has oceans, right?"
He's no more religious than she is, but he still knows there's only one response he can make. "Of course it does. With kilometers of beaches."
It's a good image to hold in your mind's eye while drifting off to sleep in the arms of your best friend.
Gaeta has nearly forgotten the conversation several days later when he's poking through his stash in anticipation of an upcoming Triad game. Sometimes he's amazed that, in the close quarters of the Battlestar, this secret about him has never gotten far: that he's a collector just this side of becoming a pack rat, always tucking away bits and pieces of things. He supposes it might be genetic; the memories of the carven heirloom boxes of trinkets that Grand-nan would occasionally reveal still hold some of the small-boy awe. He rummages through an accumulation in an old cigar box (much more utilitarian than Nan's wooden treasures—which are probably ashes now anyway) and the rainbow shimmer of a shell fragment catches his eye and his heartstrings.
He can't remember where he picked it up; so many things have happened—his life has changed so much—since the thumbnail-sized piece was added to his collection. He can almost picture himself emptying his pockets after Saturnalia break from the Academy, or shore leave, and dropping the shell into the box. A plausible scenario, not necessarily true, though he's pretty sure he acquired it before such things became precious. The black market value doesn't cross his mind as he weighs the shell in his palm and lets the images play:
A seven-year-old boy with a shock of black curls, tripping over sand and his own feet as he delivers every bit of shiny he sees for the approval of his Nan, her laugh smoother than the rush of the waves...
The liquid joy of Dee's voice as she recalls beachcombing, and warm sunlight glinting off the water and setting her alight...
Gaeta blinks and finds himself smiling softly at the shell in his hand. All of a sudden there's something he'd much rather do than lose at Triad.
It takes a few more days, but Gaeta's cigar box is finally richer by several beads and bits of jewelry wheedled (or, more often, traded for) from various members of the crew, in addition to bits of sheet copper scrapped from Vipers (he still owes Herschel a favour for that) and wire stripped from useless computer banks. A bemused Tyrol has granted him full access to the tool room, and he nods at the deck hands he passes as he enters, hoping none of them will give him any trouble. (Seelix, for one, is someone he'd rather avoid.) But no one comments as he finds space on a less-cluttered bench, though he gets his share of sidelong looks. Anyway, any grumbling undercurrents would be overpowered by the din of an overworked deck crew hammering, soldering, and welding to keep Galactica's planes flying.
Gaeta slides the lid off the box and regards his treasures for a moment, waiting for his thoughts to coalesce. On top is the center piece he has already created around the inspirational shell fragment after blowing off the card game for hammering, drilling, and tinkering. It is mounted in a miniature shadow box of copper, its coruscating sea-blue and white set off by small beads which dangle to either side. Their miniature tinkling echo Dee's laugh through his mind. He feels the corners of his mouth turn up despite a skull-splitting screech of sheet metal in the workshop.
Nudging the piece aside, Gaeta plucks out several beads until he has a small handful. A cutthroat game of High Card a few nights ago had proven quite lucrative. Peter Laird had challenged him after being egged on by the deck crew, and they'd set up in the pilot's lounge after borrowing a deck of cards from Hot Dog. The former civilian engineer was no slouch in the math department, but he simply couldn't match Gaeta's years of refinement calculating FTL jumps. By the night's end, Gaeta was richer two pairs of clean socks with minimal holes, four assorted buttons, an unsmoked but well-weathered Picon Bronze cigarillo, a half-used book of matches with no cover, and a fragment of a necklace containing gold-toned beads alternating with smaller ones of an iridescent purple. Laird had grown slightly maudlin as they played and drank, but declared himself well rid of the string of beads when he added it to the pot.
Gaeta was reluctant to accept such a valuable bet after Laird confided that it had belonged to his wife, but the assistant deck chief waved him off.
"Truthfully, I could do without it," Laird said in a low voice. "She's gone and I can't do anything about that. I'd rather keep the memories of our previous life than the reminder of having to leave her behind."
Gaeta studied his face. Laird wasn't drunk enough not to mean what he said, so Gaeta merely nodded and put in his own wager, letting the matter drop. At the end of the game, he shook Laird's hand and leaned close to murmur, "The beads will be put to a worthy use." Drawing back to meet his eyes, he could see Laird understood him and was sanguine about Gaeta's intentions.
The competition had been close enough to turn the game into a spectator sport, with groups of pilots cheering on one player or another. Skulls had actually joined the game early on, but laughingly bailed out after a few hands proved he was out of his league. Instead, he repaired to a nearby table to lay wagers on the winner with Racetrack, Hot Dog, and Narcho.
After collecting his winnings from High Card, Gaeta had passed by the pilots' table and surveyed their loot. Dropping his socks and the matches into the pile, he plucked out a short length of green satin ribbon and a tattered page from a long-lost book, then sauntered out to the bemused chuckles and hoots of the group.
Later in the week, he traded the cigarillo to Nurse Sashon for a large cylindrical bead in bright blue. She had been wondering how to get Cottle to give her time off to visit a beau on the Rising Star, and hoped he would accept a small bribe.
A few other beads have been obtained after Racetrack suggested he talk to some Marines. He even brings himself to ask Sgt Mathias (who privately scares him a bit) if she has any bits of jewelry she cares to part with, and is awarded with a triangular metal piece she hasn't been able to get anyone to accept as a bet. He threads the ribbon through it now, smoothing the satin and briefly imagining how it will look next to Dee's mocha skin.
The glue is finally dry on his final piece, which he nudges to the center of the group in his palm. The book page liberated from the pilots was brand-new reading material, and he had devoured it several times. Its lack of context in the wider story (now lost, like so many others) had helped him break a personal taboo, cutting the page apart and gluing together many layers to create a bead with the word 'desire' outermost. He lets his thoughts drift around the word for a few moments, coalescing like a colourful stellar nebula, feeling warmth spread through him at the memory of Dee's smile and how their friendship has deepened into love.
With her laugh chiming through his thoughts, Gaeta pulls out a coil of wire, picks up some fine pliers from the bench, and continues the creation of sacred space.
Romance is nearly impossible these days. They can't go on a date to Cloud 9, what with them both working overtime in the CIC (not to mention the Cloud 9 having been destroyed). The observation lounge has long since been converted to civilian barracks, and he doesn't quite like the ambience of Joe's for this. He finally decides to spring it on her in the head. It's actually fitting, in a way, for their relationship; before they had become lovers, the head was the main place they had exchanged the gossip that had cemented their friendship.
Both are just coming off an almost relaxing watch—only one possible-Cyclon alert, and that scare defused as a passing comet before the emergency jump order was given. Dee had cheerfully kept an eye on the DRADIS as Gaeta collected data on the comet; it was nothing out of the ordinary, but the analysis would give him something to do in the lab besides refining the course to an Earth he still wasn't sure he believed in.
"It's not like there are a lot of other diversions around here," he responds to her bright-eyed amusement at his enthusiasm as they leave the CIC.
"Sounds an awful lot like work to me," she says, taking his nearer hand in hers briefly. "And I can think of a few other things."
Her touch warms him. Though it's no great secret, even without the black market in rumours, they've kept their relationship discreet. Somehow it makes moments like this more special. His other hand slips into a pocket to finger his creation. He's been carrying it for days, waiting for the right moment.
Once in the officers' head, Gaeta fades back while Dee goes to the sink to splash water over her face. He nods to Hoshi, who's late for his shift, and dodges a couple of towel-clad Viper pilots. His hand curls into a fist around the necklace in his pocket, and he takes it out, hiding it behind his back and feeling momentarily all of an awkward ten years old.
Dee's laughing at a joke from Racetrack at the next sink over, hazel eyes dancing. He can't take his eyes off her reflection, and the edginess is replaced by awe that this beautiful creature should care for him. As the pilot leaves and Dee buries her face in a threadbare towel, Gaeta comes up behind her and drapes the necklace around her, fastening Nan's rhinestone clasp at her nape. He's trembling slightly, but can't keep his fingers from lingering over her skin, which is still damp from her ablutions.
Her eyes widen, one hand rising to brush the shell fragment. "Felix...oh my Gods."
"I think of it as a 'sacred space'," he tells her, threading his arms around her waist to hold her close, smiling softly at her in the mirror. "Hope for the future. Someday we will find ourselves on a beach, together."
She fingers the 'desire' bead, and he can swear that she's glowing. "I—I don't know what to say. This is amazing...you made it?"
"I don't spend all my off time in the lab." He drops a kiss on the crown of her head.
Dee's smile is all the thanks he needs, but she turns in his arms to pull his head down with her fingers through his hair and kisses him deeply. There are whistles and a few good-natured shouts of "Tonsillectomy!" and "Get a room!" Gaeta doesn't care. After all that he has lost, he doesn't intend to let Dee out of his arms.