[identity profile] scifishipper.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] pilots_presents
Title: This Wall Around My Heart (2/2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sci_fi_shipper
Rating: NC-17

Delos

It was sometime after sixteen hundred when the crowd at Joe’s Bar began to gather. T-shirted tourists and women with overly-sprayed hair started to crowd around Kara, their laughter and jokes grating on her nerves. With a motion to the bartender, she slapped a stack of cubits on the bar and slid off her stool. Clutching the edge of the bar she felt a wave of drunkenness threaten to take her off her feet. Godsdamn… It had been a long time since she’d gotten this hammered.

With a deep breath she stepped away from the bar, focusing her attention on putting one foot in front of the other, barely aware of the people she was knocking into. She’d made it halfway through the small crowd when she noticed Lee, smiling his toothsome grin at the hostess who handed him a to-go order. She felt anger ticking in her jaw. Seeing him had frakked with her head, and here he was, happy and flirting. My gods. She took a few steps closer and he turned away, not seeing her, to step back out the door. She followed a few seconds later, letting the heavy door slam behind her.

“Hey!” she barked, shouting angrily to get his attention. She ignored the other startled strangers staring at her.

Lee froze and spun around, his face surprised. When he saw her, he kept walking.

“Hey!” she shouted again. “Don’t frakking walk away from me.” She rushed towards him, all sense and reason vanished. She was rolling purely on instinct and whiskey.

“You’re drunk,” he bit back at her, speeding his steps as she started to walk beside him.

“What do you frakking expect? You were an asshole this morning.” She gestured vaguely at the police department building.

Lee clamped his lips together. After everything today, he was in no mood to fight with anyone, let alone a drunken Kara Thrace.

“Will you frakking stop?” Kara grabbed his arm and wavered, doubling over slightly, fingernails digging through the fabric of his jacket. She felt sick, like she might vomit and heaved a breath, sucking in air until her stomach calmed.

She felt his hand on her shoulder steadying her, but his tone was sour. “What do you want, Kara?”

Kara tried to answer, but as she was about to speak, nausea rose up in her throat and this time she couldn’t stop it. Spinning away from him she rushed to the bushes along sidewalk and doubled over again, spilling the contents of her stomach on the tiny green leaves and the dirt underneath. She wretched a few more times and wavered, feeling overwhelmed with dizziness.

“Frak.” She moaned, seeing black and stars at the edges of her vision.

Two strong hands grabbed her shoulders and she steadied, breathing slowly, mind singularly focused on keeping her insides from rebelling again. It didn’t work and she vomited one more time, tears now running down her face as her body convulsed. After another moment, though, she calmed and her body seemed at peace. With shaking hands, she wiped her mouth and face and shrugged Lee’s hands off her.

“You all right?” He asked, his tone softer, and that somehow made her feel worse.

“I’m fine. Forget it.” She started to walk away, embarrassed and sick. She just needed to sit.

“Kara, hold on.” Lee caught up with her. “You’re a mess. Where are you staying? Let me walk you back.”

“Nowhere. I have no idea. I just came this morning.” She stopped walking as another wave of dizziness made her ears ring. “Oh gods...” She reached out and grabbed onto his arm again.

“Damnit, Kara. What are you doing? You need to get some food into you.” He slid an arm around her waist and she was too dizzy to protest.

“Look, my car isn’t far from here. There’s a decent diner on the other side of town. Pancakes, right?” Kara blinked at him, seeing more concern than she’d expected.

Somewhere in her drunk and dizzy brain, she realized that he remembered that she loved pancakes. Her heart pinched. “Yeah.”

***

Lee held onto Kara as they walked slowly to his car two blocks away. Opening her door, he hovered as she slid inside.

“I can frakking get in a car, Lee,” she said sharply and he pulled back, slamming the door closed.

Irritated, he rounded the vehicle and got in the driver’s seat and closed the door. He car sprang to life and he snapped his seat belt into place. Kara did the same and he backed out of the space, letting his eyes linger on the pale skin of her face as he turned around to back out of the space.

They drove in silence for a few minutes as Lee’s emotions tumbled inside him. It wasn’t the first time that he’d tended to a drunken Kara Thrace. Those times, though, were happier, before the affair, before it all went to hell, when they had just been friends.

Stopped at a traffic light, Lee glanced over at Kara to see her eyes closed, breathing evenly. He took a moment then to look at her, see the face that had haunted his dreams for so many years. As he did, much of the furious anger he’d been holding onto for so long seemed to ease away replaced by far more frightening and worrisome ones that took purchase instead. A longing that he didn’t want to know forced his eyes back to the light and he pressed the gas to speed towards the diner.

As he approached the blue and white restaurant, he glanced at her again, her face beautiful in the waning sunlight of dusk, and he kept driving, leaving the diner behind to take the winding roads out of town and to his house. He told himself that she needed sleep more than she needed food.

A few minutes later, Lee turned the car into the driveway and cut the engine. He walked around the car and opened her door. “Kara? Kara…” he said, shaking her gently.

She rolled her head towards him, eyes half-opening. “Yeah?” Her eyes drifted closed again before he could answer. Reaching past her, he clicked her seat belt, his face so close to hers that he could smell the booze on her breath. He loosened the belt and began to pull her out of the car.

“Kara,” he said more sharply. “Come on. We’re here.”

He felt Kara’s legs begin to work and she managed to push herself up out of the car to lean heavily onto him, mumbling incoherently. He took her weight against him and moved her out of the way so he could close the door. He tucked his arm around her ribs and walked her towards the door. As he fumbled with his keys, he felt her weight slump against him.

“Kara! Come on.” Her body was falling into his and he nearly dragged her up the step and into the door. With a kick, it slammed closed and he tossed his keys onto the entryway table. “Frak it.”

In one strong motion, he picked her up, carrying her as her head lolled against his shoulder. Lee groaned as he took the steps up to the second floor and into one of the empty bedrooms. He deposited her as gently as he could on the bed and pulled off her boots and jacket and tucked a nearby blanket around her. He lingered despite himself and brushed a hair off her face. She was more beautiful than he remembered.

***

Kara woke to the sound of pots banging in the distance and she slowly opened her eyes. Her head was a sharp throbbing ball of pain, scorching through her skull when she tried to move. Blinking, she looked around, mind drawing a blank for a moment and then vaguely realizing that she was with Lee. Two painkillers and a glass of water on the bedside table confirmed it.

She rose on a shaky elbow and swallowed the pills down with water, the events of the day before filtering into her consciousness. With a groan, she flopped back onto the pillow and winced. Frak. She let her eyes drift closed again and everything went black.

Sometime later, she woke to the sound of footsteps in the hall and rolled over, noticing the pain in her head had been reduced to a very dull ache. Rubbing a hand over her face, she sat slowly, propping the pillow behind her back and looked around the room. It was sparse, with pale blue walls and a large oceanic map gracing the space between two closet doors. To her right, the door to the hallway was ajar, and feeling a full bladder, she crept out of bed quietly. She wasn’t ready to see Lee.

Padding into the bathroom, she closed the door quietly and frowned at her reflection. Her hair stuck up in all sorts of attractive ways and she had something crusted on her face. Kara grimaced, knowing exactly what it was and she turned on the water to wash her face. A few minutes later, she was feeling human again and she slipped back out into the hallway and into her room.

She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on her boots before folding the blanket neatly and tucking her cell into her pocket. With a deep breath, she grabbed her uniform jacket off a hanger on the closet door, shaking her head at Lee’s neatness. She had no idea how this was going to go, but frak it. She was here now and she might as well make it worth it.

***

Lee sensed Kara before he heard her booted footsteps enter the kitchen. He stiffened, feeling like every nerve was firing.

“Hey,” she said.

Lee glanced behind him as he flipped pancakes as they started to bubble. “Hey. How’s the head?”

“Eh. No worse for wear. You?” She answered and he glanced back to see her moving to lean against the island behind him.

“Okay. Did I wake you?” he turned away from the stove and wiped his hands on a towel. The thudding in his heart made his hands sweat. It made no sense that Kara Thrace was in his kitchen. Last night he had somehow dealt with it, now though, in the light of day, Zak was suddenly between them again and Lee felt the rush of fresh guilt and pain.

“No. Thanks for the drugs. You have coffee?” Her tone was even, but he felt the tension lying in wait.

“Yeah. Black, lots of sugar, right?” He reached for a cup and began to pour.

“Yeah,” she answered faintly. He focused hard on the simple task, trying hard to push his anxiety and fear away.

When he handed her the cup, she spoke, her voice unexpectedly sharp. “You remember all this crap about me, Lee? Why?” His eyes found hers as she held the cup between her palms.

He couldn’t answer, so he shrugged and turned away. He couldn’t admit that he really had never stopped thinking about her.

Blindly, he stared at the round discs cooking in the pan and waited until he thought the pancakes were nicely browned. They slid neatly onto the plate and he clicked off the stove before setting the plate carefully at the end of the oval kitchen table. “There’s syrup and butter there. Help yourself to whatever else you need.”

Kara glanced at the table and back again to Lee, her face troubled. “You’re not eating?” she asked.

“No, I ate a while ago. I’ve got some things I need to do.” He stuck his hands into his pockets, his chest aching with uncertainty. There was so much between them that had never been said. Overwhelmed, he stepped back to leave.

“Let me know when you want a ride back into town.” He turned away, his breath stuck in his throat as he left her alone.

***

Kara watched him leave the kitchen, her brow knitting in anger. Regret pooled into her stomach as she forced down the pancakes, not even tasting them as she washed them down with too hot coffee. She raced through the food and stood, thrusting her arms into the jacket she'd draped onto the back of the chair. She tossed the dish into the sink along with half of her coffee. She needed to get the frak out of there.

Kara moved from room to room looking for Lee until she found him at the end of the upstairs hallway in his bedroom. He was sitting on his bed, nightstand drawer open beside him as he stared into a small wooden box. He looked up startled when she cleared her throat and snapped the box closed. She stepped back, feeling uncomfortable for interrupting him.

“Lee, I’m ready to get going,” she said, feeling her voice thin out as she spoke the words. There was so much she wanted to say to him. She dug her fingernails into her palm and took a steadying breath.

He glanced up and closed the drawer beside him. “Okay. I’ll be there in a sec.

She backed away and turned, taking the steps back downstairs to wait by the door. Two minutes later, she heard him coming downstairs and she put her hand on the doorknob.

“Hey,” he said, dropping a bag on the side table while he pulled his boots on. He grabbed a jacket from the hallway closet. “Ready?” he asked casually as he zipped his jacket.

She nearly gaped at him. It was like she frakking meant nothing. Pain and shock shot through her. All these years, she’d believed that she’d hurt him, devastated his life in some frakked up way and he was godsdamned fine. She was a joke.

Without answering, she rushed past him, stepping out the door and bolting towards the car. Just please let him drive fast. Her insides were beginning to turn to mush and she needed desperately to be alone.

Lee locked the front door and with his bag in hand walked towards the car. When the car alarm finally beeped, the doors unlocked and she yanked hers open, throwing herself into the seat. She breathed once, deep and long before he opened the opposite door and sat down. Her foot tapped soundlessly against the car floor. How could he not even care? It stunned her, hurting her more than she wanted to admit and she quietly sucked in air to avoid crying. After all this time, it shouldn’t matter. After all this time she shouldn’t still love him.

Lee drove fast, his fingers light on the wheel of his sports car. She felt his flying instincts as he did, taking every turn perfectly, as fast as he knew the car would allow. If she’d been in a different time and place, she would have loved it, would have urged him on, loving the thrill of speed. Those days, along with their recklessness were over, and instead, she simply stared at the flat landscape, tapping her foot to dispel the tension crawling under her skin.

When they finally reached the town and pulled into Lee’s office parking lot, she let out a sigh of relief. It had been the longest car ride of her frakking life and she nearly tripped and fell as she sprung out of the car, mumbling a thanks as she did. My gods. She took a gulp of the sea air and slammed the car door behind her.

“Kara. Wait.” She was halfway across the parking lot when he called out to her. She was so tempted to just keep walking, but she wanted to hear him. Frak. Frak. Frak.

“What is it, Lee?” She rounded on him, fists planted on her hips. “All this time you can’t say a frakking word and now you want me?” Her words came tumbling out and she regretted the double meaning.

He held out the small bag to her, his face inscrutable. “Your stuff.”

She blinked, glancing at the bag and back at his face. “My stuff? What stuff?” She approached without thinking.

“From then. You know. I didn’t know if you’d want it back.”

Kara’s eyes sprung wide. He’d kept her things? “Lee, what the frak is going on. First you can’t wait to get rid of me and then you’re telling me you saved my stuff? For six years?” She was incredulous, staring at him like he was nuts. He had to be.

She saw him blanch. “I never said I wanted to get rid of you. I just…” He dropped his eyes and stared at the gray cement between them.

“My gods. Why are you like this? Give me the bag.” Kara nearly ripped the bag out of his hands and spun away from him with her chest heaving. She just couldn’t do this. Tears were burning her eyelids as she stood frozen in place, hand wrapped tightly around the ribbed handle of the bag.

“Kara,” he said, and it was enough to push her. She couldn’t listen to it all, couldn’t deal with what she had done one more time. She ran away, feeling his eyes boring into her skin as she did. She felt part of her soul tearing out behind her.

It wasn’t until Kara had walked almost to the end of the busy part of the street that she finally stopped, panting and trying to catch her breath. She looked back, but of course he wasn’t there. She slipped into an alley between two stores and cried.

***

Two weeks later

Lee sat in the next to last row of a commercial interplanetary shuttle, pulling at his tie as the ship broke atmosphere. It had been three years since he’d been off Caprica and it felt good to be among the stars again. All around him were men and women who were also on their way to Galactica’s de-commissioning ceremony. Beside him, Saul Tigh snored lightly, his long frame bent at an odd angle to fit into the tiny seat. Saul, who could have had a roomier berth on a military transport had chosen to accompany Lee instead, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he would be at the de-commissioning ceremony. When he’d shown up at his door the day before, it was clear that he’d had little choice, and frankly, the opportunity to see Kara and fix his frak-up two weeks ago weighed heavily in his decision. It was time to clear the air between the two of them and between he and his father. He’d run for long enough.

Twenty-five minutes later, the attendant announced their impending arrival and Lee nudged the sleeping Colonel.

“Saul. We’re docking.”

Saul shifted in his seat, stretching his legs into the aisle as he yawned wide. “Damn small seats. How do they expect a grown man to sleep?”

Lee smiled and stared out the window, watching as Galactica came into view, and his thoughts, as they did every moment since that day two weeks ago, turned to Kara. He imagined her on the ship, tough and beautiful, barking orders and laughing her throaty chuckle. It was these thoughts and the sight of the massive battlestar that left Lee feeling for the first time since he quit the service that he might have missed something. He pushed the thought aside. He’d made the right choice.

The loud cranking sounds of the landing gear engaging filled the cabin as the transport eased towards Galactica’s hangar bay. A few moments later, he felt the thud of landing and the clickey-clack of seat belts being unfastened throughout the ship. Adrenaline sharpened his pulse and Lee took a settling breath.

“You nervous?” Saul asked, raising his brow.

Lee let out a shaky laugh. “I guess I am.”

“The Old Man is going to be damn surprised. Might get me off the hook for screwing up down on Caprica.” Saul reached overhead and pulled out their bags, slinging one over his shoulder and tossing the other onto the seat for Lee.

“I’ll put in a good word,” Lee joked and slid out of the seat to follow Saul as he moved towards the exit.

Saul stepped off the transport and was greeted by group of deckhands who saluted as the XO resumed his role as the second in command. “Follow me,” Saul barked and Lee followed, feeling the curious eyes of those around him. He glanced around the hangar bay to search for Kara, but she was nowhere in sight.

“She’s probably in her bird already,” Saul said, giving Lee a sidelong glance.

“Am I that obvious?” Lee chuckled.

“I know what went down, I’d think you’d be pissing yourself just about now.”

Lee snorted and shook his head, his heart aching.

“You’ll see her soon enough. First, you’ve gotta see Bill.”

Saul marched him through the unfamiliar halls of Galactica as people streamed by. In a few days, this ship would be empty and his father and Saul would be on Picon or wherever they decided to retire. And Kara would be somewhere else, too.

Finally, the pair stopped at a hatch. Saul pushed it open and glanced back. “Stay here.”

Lee shifted nervously as he watched the hatch close in front of him. It had been six years since he had seen his father, had watched him across Zak’s coffin, standing close to Kara while he’d comforted his mother, her broken sobs the only things outside Kara’s face that he could focus on. He’d been filled with a bitter rage, a grief so heavy with guilt that he could barely function, except to murmur words of meaningless comfort to his bereaved parent. Now, as he stood waiting, the guilt rose up once again, lighter, but still an aching presence that he had to finally deal with, finally confess his sins to the man who had himself committed so many. No longer could Lee fault his father for finding happiness in the arms of someone else. Hadn’t he done the same thing with Kara?

With a grating squeal, the hatch spun open again and Saul waved him in. His chest tightened as he stepped into the room, glancing around at his father’s familiar things, arranged differently, but still speaking of the man he’d known for so many years.

Lee stepped around the bulkhead, eyes finding his father as he turned to look in his direction.

“Lee?” His father’s voice was filled with shock, his mouth gaping open before he clamped it closed and stepped towards his son to pull him into a tight hug.

“My gods, son. What are you doing here?” He leaned back and looked at Lee, his hand holding onto his shoulder and squeezing.

Lee glanced at Saul, whose eyes glistened as he watched the father and son reunite.

Bill released Lee’s shoulder and turned to Saul and pulled him into a tight embrace. Lee glanced away and then back as Saul gripped him back, face pressed against his father's neck. “Thank you,” he heard his father say and Lee shifted on his feet, admitting to himself for the first time that the two of them worked better than his mother and father ever had.

When the two parted, Bill swiped at his eyes and chuckled. “I’m getting old, Lee. Crying at everything these days.”

Lee smiled, feeling an unexpected love tugging at his heart. “It must be hard, giving up your command.” He glanced around the room, seeing half-packed boxes along the wall. For all of the problems it had caused, his father really did love this ship.

“It’s time, Lee. It’ll be an adjustment, but it’s a good thing.” Bill squeezed Saul’s hand and stepped over to the bar. “You two want a drink?”

They both laughed nervously and answered in the affirmative. Moments later, with drinks in hand, Bill motioned them to sit.

Lee took a seat on the wide leather sofa and glanced at Saul who raised his glass towards his lips. “I’ve got some things to do, Bill. And I think you and Lee have a lot to discuss. I’ll leave you to it.” He swallowed down the rest of his drink and spun around.

When the hatch clanged closed, Lee glanced at his father and then down at the ornate pattern on the rug under his feet.

“What’s on your mind, son?”

Lee heaved a sigh and stood, walking to the bar to pick up the decanter of whiskey. “It’s a long story, dad. And I think we’ll need a little more of this.” He stepped forward and topped off their drinks.

He set the decanter down between them and began to talk.

***

An hour after the official ceremony decommissioning the Galactica, Kara stepped out of the shower, her hair still dripping at the ends. She combed it back, staring at her reflection in the mirror as she pulled it into a tight ponytail. Now that the formalities were complete, she had a lot to do. Wrapping a towel tightly around her chest, she slipped into the corridor and down to the senior pilot’s quarters where she slung the towel over her locker door and slid into her duty blues. With a satisfied smile, she realized that this was one of the last times she'd wear her uniform. She’d accepted the job with Gemenon Airlines and in a matter of days, she’d be planetside.

Squeezing her hair out against the towel one more time, she hung in on a hook inside her locker, glancing down as she did to spot the duffel she’d been avoiding for two weeks. With a frown, she pulled it up and tossed it onto her rack. Eventually, she was going to have to look inside – might as well be now.

Tucking a leg beneath her, she sat on the rack and slid the zipper open and pulled it apart to peer inside. She pulled things out one at a time, remember each item, her heart sinking slowly as she did. She shook out two old pyramid shirts, smiling at the memory of weekend games on Caprica with Lee and Zak, the two of them, her closest friends, flanking her sides as they argued about team strategy and cheered on their favorite players. More times than not they’d follow the crowd to one of the bars outside the stadium, continuing their celebrations or drowning their sorrows in booze. It had been at one of those games, with Zak off on a week-long training mission, that Kara and Lee had started their affair, pretending that it had been the alcohol, but later admitting that they’d both been sober enough to stop. She’d had to live with that choice for a long, long time.

Kara laid the shirts aside, her fingers lingering for a moment before digging back into the bag. Next, she pulled out an unmarked envelope and dumped the contents onto the mattress. Cubits stared up at her along with a few C-Bucs ticket stubs and a folded photograph. Slowly, she opened the paper and saw the familiar photo of the three of them after a pickup pyramid game. It was different than the one she had hanging in her locker. It was the three of them laughing together, arm in arm, but Kara’s head was tipped towards Lee as they’d all stood close for the picture.

She remembered now Lee's sharp reaction when Zak said he loved her in front of him, how the entire mood had changed and the guilt they'd gotten so good at hiding had blossomed between the two of them. So clearly, she remembered teasing Zak as he hugged her, the feeling of Lee moving away, the click of the camera. That had been the last time the three of them had been together.

With a shake of her head, she folded the picture once more and shoved it back into the envelope. Kara dipped her hand back into the bag. Her fingers scraped along the bottom of the duffel until she found a smooth rectangular box and pulled it out. It was the same box Lee had been holding when she interrupted him as his house two weeks prior. Slowly, she opened it and the tears that she’d been holding back now slipped down her face. Inside was her tag, the one she’d given it to Lee the day they’d agreed she would tell Zak everything. The day she was supposed to end it.

The day she’s said yes to marrying Zak instead.

Swiping away tears, she slid her other leg onto her rack and snapped the curtain closed. With shaking fingers, she reached across her rack and pulled a small pouch off her shelf. Opening it, she slid the contents into her palm. Her small statues of Artemis and Aphrodite slid out, clanging softly together and then the ping of metal on metal as a dog tag slipped between the two statues to land on her thigh. She picked it up and swiped her thumb across the name on the tag: L. Adama.

With both tags now clutched together in her palm, she turned onto her side and let the tears come one last time. And then, she promised herself, it would be over.

***

For an entire day, she’d managed to avoid Lee. She’d found out that Lee was on Galactica from the deck crew and the other pilots, and finally, from Saul, who’d come knocking on her hatch as she put the last of her belongings into an over-sized green duffel.

“How long you going to hide, Thrace?” he drawled, leaning casually against the hatchway.

“Not sure what you mean, sir,” she answered coldly and zipped the bag, before dropping it onto the floor beside her rack.

“Don’t give me that garbage. The old man’s been asking about you for an entire frakking day. I covered, but it’s time to pay the piper, Thrace. Bill knows. Lee told him everything and you need to get your ass down there and show yourself.”

“Yes, sir,” Kara answered with a belly full of bile.

“Good. He’s expecting you.” With that, Saul spun away and strode down the corridor. Kara tossed her mattress and blankets in the guise of looking for left behind items. What she really wanted to do was crawl under it and disappear. Frak.

***

With no one else to talk to, Lee made his way back to his father’s quarters. A nice young woman, Petty Officer Dualla, had given Lee a long tour of Galactica at Saul’s request. It had been filled with details about the ship and about his father’s command. And if he wasn’t mistaken, the woman had also been flirting with him. It was sweet and amusing, but the person he’d really wanted to see had been avoiding him.

Now, with his tour complete, he said his goodbyes to the young officer and parted ways, intending finally, to find Captain Kara Thrace, even if it meant asking his father to order her to appear.

With a few wrong turns, Lee finally found his father’s office and knocked on the hatch. He waited a long moment and then knocked again, his hand hovering over the metal when the door finally squealed open.

“Lee. I’m glad you’re here, son.” He motioned behind him, speaking quietly. “Kara’s inside. Saul thinks you two need to talk and from the way she’s acting, I think he’s right. You two need to talk.”

Lee blanched and glanced past his father, but couldn’t see much further than an empty bookcase near the door. “Um, okay...” He fought the urge to go back the way he came.

Bill stepped out of the hatch and waited for Lee to move inside. “I’m going down to the CIC to supervise the docking procedures and then I’m heading off the ship in the morning.” Lee watched as Bill closed the hatch.

“Okay, dad. I’ll find you before I leave.”

The hatch wheel spun and Lee turned around, taking a calming breath that did nothing to ease his trepidation.

“Everything okay, Commander?” Kara asked and blinked when Lee appeared instead of his father.

“He said he had to go,” Lee answered awkwardly and approached as Kara rose from the sofa and dropped an empty glass onto the bar.

“I see. Well, I have some last minute things to do before I leave tomorrow. I bet your dad was glad you came.” Kara walked towards him to pass.

Lee grabbed her arm before she could make it by him. Despite his fear, he had to do this. “Kara, wait. Can we talk?” His eyes met her wide stare and she pulled her arm away, but stood still.

“I don’t have anything to say, Lee. What’s done is done. I can’t let it run my life anymore.”

“Me, neither, Kara. That’s why we have to talk about it. It’s been six years… I need to know what happened.” He glanced away and then found her face again, her expression tight as she stared at him.

“You mean you want to know how I frakked up? That’s what you really want to hear.”

“No, Kara, stop. Please.

She looked towards the hatch and Lee felt her struggle, watching with his chest aching as he waited for her to run. A thousand sentences formed on his tongue, but none made sense. He wanted to say he loved her. Missed her. Ask a hundred questions but he couldn’t even move. She was about to walk out of his life again and he wasn’t sure he could handle it.

“Kara, I’m sorry.” He didn’t know what else to say.

He saw her dig into the pocket of her fatigues and spin around, her palm open in front of him. “Why did you keep this?” In her hand was the tag he’d kept hidden away for so long. “Why didn’t you throw it away. Destroy it? Why?” her voice rose in pitch and bounced off the now-empty metal walls of his father’s quarters.

Lee stared at the tag, unable to speak for a long moment as emotions jumbled into a knot in his throat

“Answer my question, Lee,” she insisted.

“I loved you.” Lee frowned deeply, and held her eyes before he looked away. He was remembering now the hurt that he’d endured after Zak’s phone call, the one he’d expected to be from Kara but held Zak's excited voice on the other end: 'She said yes!'

Lee cringed at the memory. “I hardly had anything left of you. I wanted to throw it away, but I couldn’t.”

“I called you, Lee. I came over. I wanted to explain.” Kara’s voice was low and quiet.

The old anger started to tighten his jaw as he listened. He didn’t want to go back there, the rage was too hot and consuming, coming up from depths he’d thought were long smoothed over. He took a sharp intake of breath. “Frak. I thought I could do this, Kara. I can’t.” He stepped to the side and started to leave.

“Frak that, Lee. You started it and we’re going to frakking finish it. I can’t do this anymore either. Pretend like everything is fine, like everything we had never happened. I have a frakking life and this has been dogging my ass for six frakking years.” Her voice was hot with her own anger and hurt.

“What do you want me to say, Kara? That it’s okay? I forgive you? I don’t, okay? I didn’t want to have this fight. I kept my frakking mouth shut. What happened that day –” he stopped short, clenching his fists. “Everything. It nearly killed me, Kara. All I could do was stay away. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be around my father and listen to his grief and his shattered dreams about his son’s engagement to the beautiful and talented Kara Thrace. I couldn’t. I can’t.” Lee turned away, his body vibrating with hurt and anger like it had just happened. The images were so crisp and clear, the way he’d screamed at his father, shoving all of his guilt and rage onto the elder man’s lap, accusing him of forcing Zak into the military, forcing him to become fighter pilot when he never really wanted to. Truth was, he realized, that it was he who’d never wanted to be a pilot. Zak had been fine with it.

“Don’t put this all on me, Lee. You were there, too. You wanted me to do it. Take the blame. Tell Zak about us while you just waited. What the frak was I supposed to do? You know what happened? Well, of course you don’t. He had it all planned, Lee. The night before, while I was frakking your brains out, he was planning to propose to me. I came in the next morning and the room was filled with flowers. He was glowing, Lee. He could have probably flown without frakking wings. He did it all. He frakking loved me and I could NOT break him. I just couldn’t.” Tears streamed down her face as he watched her body shaking with emotion. “If we had told him together? Maybe. But you should have seen him. My gods, Lee. I couldn’t. I loved him.”

Lee stared, barely comprehending her words but knowing exactly what she meant, the earnestness, the boyish charm that Zak wrapped everyone in. For weeks before that night, Lee had avoided him, dodged Zak's phone calls, had done everything he could to not hear about how much he loved Kara. So, Lee had pushed for more, for an end to her relationship with Zak. He’d been a coward for insisting that Kara tell him on her own because Lee couldn’t face him.

He shook his head, not wanting to admit his mistake, but he did it anyway. “You’re right. I pushed you to do it. I should have gone. I should have been there.” Lee dropped onto his father’s sofa and let out a ragged breath. “We should have never done it in the first place, Kara. Never.” Lee felt like crying. For so long he’d wrapped his guilt up in Kara’s betrayal, never wanting to see his own shame about their affair.

“No. But we did. It was frakked up. The whole thing. But one thing is true – something maybe you didn’t think about when you were hating me for all those years. Your brother died happy, Lee. That transport would’ve crashed whether I broke up with him or not. But he died thinking everything was great. I can’t regret that.”

Lee squeezed his eyes closed, remembering the news of Zak’s death on a military transport that had carried his entire flight class to a training mission on Gemenon. It had crashed on landing and twelve cadets had died. Zak was one of them.

“No. I’m glad he was happy Kara. I couldn’t see that then. But I get it. You're right.” He brought his hands to his face, touching the heated skin and he looked at Kara. “Such a frakking mess.”

Kara stepped towards him and sat on the edge of the coffee table, her knees inches from his. “I could have said ‘no’. I couldn’t. I meant to and then I—”

“No. Stop.” Lee stared at the floor and sighed, a defeated feeling coming to rest over his shoulders.

“So much time wasted.” Lee slumped deeper into the soft leather of the sofa, raising his eyes to hers. “I ruined my last few weeks with Zak, Kara. I’ll never forgive myself for that. He was my best friend and he died believing I was angry with him. Truth is, I couldn’t face him. I can’t even remember how I convinced myself that everything we did was okay. I can’t get that back.”

Kara reached into Lee’s lap and squeezed his fingers. “He loved you. I know he did.”

“I’m so sorry for the way everything happened.” Lee felt the relief of tears now, his body relaxing and letting the grief come fresh and new. He put a hand to his face, swiping them away. “Sorry.” He sniffed and tears flowed again.

Kara leaned forward and took both of his hands into hers. “Come here,” she said and stood, pulling him up with her and right into her arms.

Feeling her against him was more than he could bear and he lost control of his emotions completely, shaking slightly against her chest as he cried. She held him tightly and he heard her sniffing in his ear. After a few minutes, Lee pulled away, wiping is nose and chuckling. “We’re a mess.”

Kara smiled, her eyes red from crying. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

***

Lee woke the next morning feeling lighter than he had in months, maybe even years, as the weight of things between he and Kara had eased. The two had parted ways after their hug and he’d spent the rest of the night talking with his father and Saul, cementing their relationship and learning more about the years since everything had fallen apart. Now, having unexpectedly stayed an extra night on Galactica, he'd missed his flight and had no ride home.

After a quick shower, he found her on the hangar deck talking to a deckhand.

Once the woman walked away, Lee approached Kara and smiled, holding on to the hope that they were still okay. “Hey. How are you?”

“Great. In a matter of hours, I’ll be out.”

“Out?” Lee’s eyes widened and Kara grinned. “Out of the Fleet?”

“What don’t look so shocked. Did you think I was a lifer?”

“No, but Saul…”

“Yeah, well, Saul would make me Admiral of the Fleet if he had his way. They’re fine with it. Or at least they will be once Bill settles Saul down.”

Lee nodded conspiratorially. “Good luck with that.”

Kara laughed and rolled her eyes.

“Where you heading? After this, I mean?” He asked, feeling the spark of hope that she’d be somewhere on Caprica. It was a big planet, but maybe they would see each other…maybe something else if things went the way he hoped.

“Taking a commercial pilot position with Gemenon Air. Great pay package, killer benefits, six weeks paid vacation. Who cares if I’m shuttling around a bunch of bratty kids and their families. At least I’ll still be flying. From there, who knows?” Kara shrugged and pulled one of her duffels off the deck and slung it onto her shoulder.

“So, out of Gemenon, then?” He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice as he picked up her other bag to followed her across the deck.

“Nope. They’re expanding. Domestic only.” Kara winked at him and shot him a toothy grin. Something had just sparked between them; he could feel it as sure as he was breathing.

They reached a raptor and Kara tossed the bag into the back, securing it and the one Lee carried to the cargo hooks on the floor.

“I think that’s it,” Kara said, as she stowed her bags on the ship. “Can’t believe I’ve been on board for four years. I’m gonna miss her.”

“You can always visit the museum, you know, as an ordinary citizen. I’m sure you’d get a discount.” Lee joked then turned away when he spotted his father and Saul approaching from the opposite side of the deck.

“Commander,” Kara said, hopping down off the raptor’s wing and standing sharply at attention, saluting his father. Lee felt his muscles contract as he assumed a tighter posture. The training stuck long after he’d left the service.

“Captain,” Bill said, tipping his head to her. “Son.” Bill nodded at him looked into the raptor before addressing Kara. “You have everything?”

“Yes, sir. Just finished loading. About to head out.” Kara tipped back on her heels and stretched her arms out wide. “Really looking forward to three weeks paid leave. I’m gonna sit on my ass and drink ambrosia under the sun every damned day.”

Everyone laughed and Lee watched as Kara gave Bill and Saul each a tight embrace. “You two stay out of trouble. I’m going to be too busy getting a tan to rescue your sorry asses.” She waggled her finger at Saul in particular, who glared at her.

Bill addressed Lee, “What about you, son. What are your plans?”

“Well, I missed my flight last night, so I'm hitching a ride with some kind soul. When are you two going down to Caprica?” Lee shoved his hands into his pockets and felt Kara step closer to him.

“Lee, come with me. They’re going to Command for some boring old dinner. I’m going to Caprica now. I’ll take you home.”

Lee glanced at her, surprised, and smiled in relief. “Well, okay. I guess I’m leaving now.”

Bill approached Lee and gave him another hug. “You made me a happy man, son. Thank you for coming.” Lee nodded into his shoulder and hugged him back.

When his father stepped back, Saul clapped Lee on the shoulder. “You did good, son.” For once, Lee appreciate the Saul’s affection and didn’t chafe at the word ‘son’.

Lee nodded and stepped up onto the raptor wing to join Kara. He glanced back at both of them, then looked pointedly at Saul. “I’ll see you in Delos in two weeks right? The magistrate will have my ass if you don’t show for your community service. Two weeks.” Lee held up two fingers and watched as Saul twisted his mouth up into a grimace, mumbling about cleaning up after some frakking tourists. Lee glanced at his father and then to Kara and they all chuckled.

“We’ll both see you in two weeks, Lee.” Bill glanced over at Saul, squeezing his arm and giving him a soft and patient expression. “A week’s vacation at the ocean sounds great, doesn’t it, Saul?”

The taller man grumbled again, but his eyes twinkled as he stared back at his father. Lee’s smile spread into a grin about the love his father had obviously found. With his heart happy, he gave a small wave and followed Kara into the ship.

***

The nighttime air near the ocean was cool as Kara pulled them into Lee’s driveway in Delos and cut the engine. During the three hour drive from the base, Kara talked to Lee about Bill and Saul and the Galactica. Lee had talked a little about law school and moving to Delos with Gianne and then about their break up six months back. They touched on most things, but never let the conversation linger too long on sad thoughts. This was a time for celebration, Kara thought, and she was determined to keep things light.

Lee moved his hand to the car door handle. “You want to come in?”

Kara took a breath, not quite sure of the next step, but unwilling to leave him just yet. There was still something between them and she wanted to know where it would go. “Sure. I’m kind of starving.”

“Well, we can fix that,” Lee said and pushed the door open wide to climb out of the car.

Kara unlocked the trunk and Lee pulled out his bag and headed towards the front door. Kara glanced at her duffels, felt wary, and then slammed the trunk lid closed. No pressure. If this was going to happen, she wasn’t going to push.

The neighborhood around them was quiet as Kara followed Lee into the house, waiting until he flicked on the lights and closed the door.

“Nice to see your place when I’m not drunk, hungover, or pissed off,” she joked and Lee gave her a funny expression.

“What? That was me the last time I was here.” She stepped past him and into the kitchen, feeling free enough to open the refrigerator and pull out an ambrosia. “You want one?”

“Sure,” he answered and kicked off his shoes. “I’m beat. I feel like I could sleep for a week. Forgot how uncomfortable those military racks are.” He stretched his arms over his head and she watched the muscles play against the fabric of his shirt. The desire she’d been holding at bay blossomed inside her and she took a long swig of her ambrosia, letting her eyes linger on Lee as he took the ambrosia she’d opened for him.

He drank and leaned against the kitchen island, his eyes inscrutable. “So, where are you headed first? Now that you’ve got time on your hands?”

“Depends on my options,” Kara drawled, glancing away from Lee and then back.

“What are they so far?” He asked, eyes on her as he took another drink.

“Helo’s parents have a ski house in Mount Argo. He’s going there with a few buddies from flight school. And then there’s Flattop’s offer to take an outback hike on the southern continent.” Kara blew out a breath. “That sounds like too much work. Helo’s offer is good, but…”

“No sun,” Lee interrupted.

“Exactly,” she said, pointing at him with her ambrosia bottle. A long moment passed and then Kara took a long pull on the bottle. Enough waiting. She knew exactly what she wanted, and he’d want it or not.

Kara dropped the ambrosia onto the island and took two steps forward, standing so close to Lee that her breasts were nearly touching him. His eyes darkened and met hers as she spoke. “What I really want to do is lay in the sun all day. Get a tan. Do nothing.”

Lee held her eyes, his mouth quirking up at one corner. “And where exactly might you be able to do this, Captain?”

Kara slid her fingers along the buttons of Lee’s shirt, popping one open at a time as she moved lower. “Well, I know this lawyer, not bad looking, kind of a shitty attitude, but he’s got a house close to the shore.”

“Shitty attitude, huh?” he teased, and brushed a hair off her face.

Kara pulled her lip into her mouth and nodded, “Mmmhmm.” She felt his hands skim her sides and she shivered.

With the last button freed, she slid her hands along Lee’s muscled abdomen, watching his mouth drop slightly open as she skimmed her fingers over his nipples to push the shirt off his shoulders. Kara leaned forward, pressing small kisses to Lee’s collarbone and neck, dancing her lips along his jaw until he groaned and squeezed his arms tightly around her.

“My gods, Kara, I’ve missed you so much.” He breathed into her hair and pulled her face flush into his neck.

She half-laughed, half-groaned. “I missed you, too.”

After a moment, Kara leaned back and tilted her head up to capture his mouth in a kiss, feather light at first and then deepening as their fingers skittered along clothes, pulling at snaps and zippers until they were nearly nude, pressed against each other in his kitchen.

“C’mon, let’s go upstairs,” he whispered, dragging her towards the steps.

“Hey,” she argued, stopping short. “What about that beach vacation? I’m not putting out until I’ve got a deal.”

Lee laughed and lunged, tackling her and pressing her hard against the wall at the base of the steps. Kara squealed and he bit along the skin of her neck. “Anything you want, Kara.” He breathed a sigh as he found her mouth with his and gripped her tighter.

“Anything at all.”

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