Title: DANCE OF SHADOWS
Author: Rhien Elleth
Author's Note: This is a BSG 2003 fic, AU, Lee/Kara. It takes place immediately following where the mini left off. Please ask before archiving, as I probably won't archive it anywhere until completed. Thanks go to Cryswimmer for taking on the task of beta for this. :)
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters, BSG, etc, etc.
It caught her unaware, sliding eel-like under her guard just beneath the tide of exhaustion that dragged her into sleep. She should have known, should have fortified against the sly, sneaking assault, jerked herself awake as she used to, back when the dream had plagued her every damn night.
But it hadn't come in a long time. Over a year. Her guard had understandably dropped since then. And she, like everyone else aboard the fleet carrying all that remained of humanity, was utterly, completely exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. They'd escaped death - escaped genocide -- by a hair's breath, and the resulting adrenaline crash had everyone not on duty seeking bed, and the oblivion of sleep.
But for Kara, the sweet dark of oblivion never came.
Because the frakking dream rose up through her subconscious like smoke, engulfed her in the familiar, in the comforting, before she knew what was happening - and then rolled her under, so she couldn't break free.
Her mother's voice was distant, and free of tension, something Kara's mind processed automatically. She was free to ignore it for a little time, yet, without fear of getting into trouble. The eight-year-old girl brushed awareness of it aside, and kept playing.
It was early summer, the days pleasantly warm, while the air in the evenings had a chill bite to it yet. It was evening now, the sun going down over Caprica's horizon. The last dance of its light turned the surface of the pond to molten gold, the tall grasses around her blowing gently in the cool evening breeze.
But Kara's attention wasn't on the beauty of her favorite spot, and neither was she deliberately hiding in the growing shadows of dusk. She held perfectly still, every muscle tense and waiting, hardly daring to breath. The bulbous eyes of a pond frog breached the water's surface, and Kara crept slowly forward, hands poised. She moved silently, easing herself over grass she'd smashed down with previous treks to the water's edge, evidence of this in the green stains covering her overalls.
"Kara!" A hint of exasperation in her mother's voice, now, but not enough to break an eight-year-old's determined concentration.
She leaned down, stretching precariously forward in an effort to move as little as possible. Almost, she thought, fingers reaching, body tensing to pounce on her unsuspecting prey.
"Where is that frakkin' brat?"
The deeper, masculine voice of her father was wholly unexpected. Kara froze, every muscle in her small body rigid. Why wasn't he at work? He always worked late in Caprica City.
His voice was heavy, with an all-too-familiar slur of drink to it. She heard her mother's nervous laugh in response to the question, heard her off-hand reply from only a few feet away.
"Oh, she's always playing out here, Karl. You know how kids are - too busy running and climbing, and getting dirty to listen when they're being called. Kara!"
But this time the note of exasperation had completely disappeared, and Kara heard only anxious desperation in her mother's voice. Her father, she knew, could be mean and scary when he drank.
"Frakkin' useless brat," he muttered, it seemed from right above her. She tried to move, tried to stand up, and smile, and tell them she was right there, but her body wouldn't obey her. His voice sounded too ugly, already veering toward the hateful tone it had right before he abandoned words for fists. And she didn't want to be a target for them.
"She's just a child," her mother said tightly. "A little girl out playing. I can find her, Karl. Why don't you go back inside?" Back to your bottle. Even at eight, the words were automatic for Kara to think. The bottle was the only thing her father loved. Not her. Not her mother, who still bore the bruises from his last beating.
"You tellin' me what to do, you stupid bitch?"
And as quickly as that, the time of words was over.
"No, I --"
The unmistakable sound of fist striking flesh was loud, and Kara flinched as her mother cried out. Mama! But she didn't move, either. Didn't dare.
The sounds continued, the grass rustling a few feet to Kara's left, her mother sobbing. She could hear his breathing, and ragged, mumbled words.
"Your frakkin' fault. . .bitch. . .you and that brat. . . your fault. . ."
She could just see him from where she crouched, could see his arm rise and fall with the blows. And when it rose and fell again, something red and wet sprayed the strands of grass inches from Kara's face. Her mother's sobs stopped. So did everything else. Her father didn't move, the grass went still. Something inside Kara turned cold, deathly cold with fear.
But the word was lodged in her throat. Her mouth opened, no sound emerging.
An endless time later, she heard his voice -- no longer ugly and mean, but broken and quivering, like he was crying.
"Liana? Liana?" And then he was sobbing - Papa was sobbing!
Somehow her frozen limbs moved. Kara crept forward through the grass, moving aside the tall strands so she could see. . .and her mother's beautiful green eyes stared back at her, open and unseeing, her pretty face splattered with blood.
Kara screamed. . .
. . .and jerked awake, panting. Her stomach twisted, nausea rising to her throat, and she lunged out of her bunk. She barely made it to the latrine in time to dry heave her guts out. By the time it passed, she was breathing heavily and tasting bile.
"Frak," she muttered, and rose shakily to her feet. Why? Why now? Lords, I thought I was over this.
"Starbuck?" It was Freya, one of her bunkmates, standing sleepily by the hatch. "You okay?"
Kara forced a smile for the other woman.
"Fine," she managed, and bent over one of the sinks to splash cold water over her face. She didn't offer any explanations, and the other pilot shrugged and left without asking for one. After all, nearly everyone onboard had emotional trauma they were dealing with. Kara doubted that a single survivor remained who had not lost loved ones in the past three days. It made a nightmare that had plagued her since childhood seem petty by comparison.
But knowing that wasn't going to help her get back to sleep. She looked up and met her own gaze in the mirror.
I have her eyes. The thought popped into her head before she could stop it, brought the dream rushing back. Anger welled with it, and she took refuge in the familiar emotion, used it to force away her mother's image. I will not be weak.
Kara threw her towel at the mirror in disgust, turned on her heel and stalked back to her bunk. She pulled on a flight suit and headed for the hatch, intending to spend the empty hours of the night flying patrol, if she could charm the Chief out of a Viper. Hers was still under repair.
And flying, as always, would make everything ok.