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The Way of Cain

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Captain Cain slipped from the back of the tram as it pulled into the station. One of the other passengers startled at his early exit, her eyes narrowing in disapproval as she glanced down at his pilot's uniform, nose wrinkling in disdain. Cain just grinned and held his finger up to shush the woman, giving her a cheerful wink. She didn't look convinced, no doubt assuming he was just another rowdy drunk on home leave, but as the tram came to a full stop, she dismissed him, turning back to give her full attention to the disembarkation instructions.

Cain ignored the announcements, hopping over the tram's tracks easily with his small kit slung over his shoulder and hurried over towards the edge of the platform. Carefully he peeked around the edge of the tram and saw that the exiting passengers were providing him with good cover.

He scrambled towards the station and found a spot to hide near the travel kiosk, then surveyed the crowd who'd been waiting for the arriving tram. He grinned as he spotted his daughter craning her neck, looking for him. He took a moment to just look at her, amazed; she'd shot up over the past season, though she still had to stand up on her toes to try to see around the adults.

Cain snuck up behind her and caught her with his hands on her shoulders. Sheba let out a squeal and spun, laughing as she saw him and pouting at the same time. "That's not fair!" she shouted, thumping him, then diving forward for a hug. "You cheated!"

"A warrior is always vigilant," Cain reminded her. He wanted to catch her up and hold her on his hip, but even a yahren ago she'd grown too big for that and had stopped demanding it another yahren before. He stepped back, holding onto her hand. "Let me take a look at you."

Sheba stood straight, shoulders back and chin up, as she stood for inspection. He clothes were cut simply in the soft brown cloth of a child's 'warrior' costume, though of better quality since, like many boys her age, she wore it almost exclusively and not just on dress-up holidays.

Cain gave her a nod. "Better than some of the pilots in my squadron," he told her. He held out his bag and she grabbed the straps, taking its weight easily. When she'd been smaller, she'd struggled with it, banging it against her knees, but refusing to give up her 'duty.' Now she could almost carry it as easily as her father, and the determined look on her face told him she wouldn't be asking for a rest between here and home.

"Now, walk with me, and perhaps you can explain why your teachers have asked to meet with me during my furlough," Cain said, trying to sound stern. He suspected he knew exactly the trouble and wasn't terribly concerned about it. Unless it was, by some miracle, a new sort of trouble than all the other times Sheba's teachers had messaged him with complaints of his daughter's behavior.

Sheba sighed, and for a moment the parade-stiffness melted out of her shoulders. He waited until she pushed them back, raised her head and looked him right in the eye. "I got into a fight with a classmate. Tervin."

Cain nodded and kept walking. "All right. So, what was the fight about?"

"He said I can't be a viper pilot."

As he'd suspected. "Was that all?" he asked.

He looked down and saw Sheba frowning, as though trying to decide whether to confess to everything. Cain waited her out, knowing as well as Sheba did that her teacher would tell him everything anyhow. It wasn't the first time Sheba had gotten into a fight with other children over her plans for the future.

"He said I couldn't be a warrior," Sheba continued, and her voice was hard, but steady. "He said I couldn't even be a shuttle pilot, because girls have to stay home and 'mind the place' while the boys fight the Cylons." She looked up at him then, scowling. "I remembered what you told me," she said. "I spoke to him respectfully, but I didn't back down. I told him I can be a warrior and I will be a viper pilot, like my father and my grandfather before me. He laughed at me, but I kept my temper, just like you said."

"Good, good," Cain told her as she paused, and he smiled as her expression brightened in relief. All of her life, Cain had been hard-pressed to raise her the way her temperament demanded, raising her to follow in his footsteps the same way he would have done with any strong-willed and fearless son. The task was made harder what with his being away for so much of the time and not helped at all by her teachers' insistence that he might be doing her a disservice. As though Cain had anything but his daughter's happiness and best interest at heart. Cain scoffed to himself, even now, to think of such nonsense.

Sheba's mother had always been content to let her daughter run after her father, clambering up trees and playing in the creek and reading story after story about the War against the Cylons. When she'd been killed, Sheba's aunt and uncle took her in while Cain was gone, and they'd quickly learned the futility of teaching Sheba any of the so-called gentler arts. (Sheba had only agreed to learn how to sew when Cain had pointed out how handy it was to repair a torn uniform while out on deep service, and she'd learned only enough to replace a bad buckle and sew on a patch before she declared herself done with the lesson.)

Whenever he could vid home, Cain told her stories of his patrols and suitably-edited details about some of his duties aboard the battlestar. And almost every single time, once Sheba told him her own stories, he'd had to remind her that her schoolmates might be a trial at times, but that a warrior's true anger should always be reserved for the Cylons. But he also taught her to stand up for herself, and on visits home he drilled her on self-defense and hand-combat, suitably scaled down to account for her size and age.

He didn't mind if Sheba got into fights, but he was damned if he was going to let his daughter lose.

"So, then, how did it come to a fight?" He made the turn at the corner, sidestepping a couple of women out shopping. He gave them a grin and a nod as they smiled at him, and as he and Sheba walked past, he could hear them giggling. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw them watching, so he winked. The younger of the women blushed and turned away; the other kept staring at him boldly.

When he turned back he saw Sheba's expression had turned as dark as a storm cloud and she was biting her lip.

"You were telling me how you came to fight Tervin," Cain reminded her.

Sheba took a deep breath and brushed aside whatever was troubling her. "He kept saying that I couldn't be a warrior," she said. "And I told him I was going to the Academy, and then he could see just how good a warrior I'm going to be." She hesitated, looking for all the worlds like one of his pilots unwilling to confess to something they'd done. But she said, "He said I can't get into the Academy, and I told him that you said I would. He said you'd lied." Her voice dropped and she sounded like the little girl she'd been yahrens ago, tiny and clumsy and oh so determined to do everything she saw her father do. Sheba looked up at him with wide, deep brown eyes, so much like her mother's that Cain wanted to pick her up and hold her.

Instead he reached out and took her hand, and gave it a firm squeeze. "I have never once lied to you, Sheba, just like I never lie to the pilots under my command. If you tell a lie, you lose a person's trust, and there are those whose trust you must never lose."

He stopped walking and turned to face her, and as she stopped as well, he noted that she still held his bag up instead of taking the chance to rest it on the ground. He gave her a nod of approval and she smiled briefly before schooling her expression back to a serious mien.

"Now, Sheba, you know that a warrior's path is not always easy, and we've had this discussion before about getting into fights with your schoolmates."

Sheba nodded at him, though her mouth quirked, briefly, and he wondered if she was thinking that those discussions had never amounted to much more than a brief reminder to try not to do it. Cain privately thought that Tervin should mind his own fracking business and be grateful people like Sheba would be around to defend his home world.

But Cain wanted to be able to honestly tell Sheba's teachers that he'd spoken to her about her behavior, and so, here he was. They might not like the result, but Cain could feel nothing but pride in his daughter. Those very same teachers were safe in their homes because of warriors like Sheba would one day be, and they owed her their thanks, not their criticism. He didn't try to tell Sheba that, however, knowing it was more important to teach her to respect her teachers.

Sheba was staring back at him, clearly waiting for a continuation of the reprimand and perfectly willing to stand there and receive it. Cain nodded. "Right. Lecture over."

Sheba giggled and Cain couldn't help but smile back at her. He put his hand on her shoulder and resumed their walk, and he felt her press against him, briefly. After a moment, he gave in to the urge -- he was home, off-duty, and she was his daughter. He tugged her back against him, leaving his hand on her far shoulder, and when she looked up he smiled. Her answering smile was immediate and she leaned into his half-embrace as they walked.

He thought about the day when she would become a pilot, receive her first assignment and pilot's wings. It would be yahrens in the future, and he dared hope that he might be able to come home to see it. He could envision Sheba in her ensign's uniform and wondered, idly, whose ship she might one day be assigned. She would serve them well, he knew that -- he would do everything he could to make sure of it, just as his own father had done for him, in the few yahrens Cain had known him before he'd died fighting the Cylons. Through Sheba, their family legacy would continue, serving the Colonies as some of the best damn pilots and warriors the Fleet had ever known.

"I'm very proud of you, you know," he told her. "You're going to be the best pilot in the entire Fleet."

She smiled up at him, wide and carefree, then she slipped her arm around his waist and gave him a hug.