Chapter 3

Kara hit the lift controls the second she was inside.  No way was she sharing the ride up with that pompous, emotionally stunted, unappreciative asshole.  She crossed her arms over her chest and turned to smirk at him as the safety doors slid shut.

It would have been a whole lot more satisfying, of course, if he'd actually been looking at her.  Or even if he'd walked toward the lift with the intention of taking it.  Instead, he still stood with his back to her, staring down at the pieces of his Viper.  As if the frakking thing isn't going back together again.

She made a rude noise in her throat, pacing the confines of the lift as it rose. 

"It never fails," she muttered to the empty air.  "A little promotion, a little more power, and suddenly he has a frakking superiority complex.  Just like every other asshole in the Fleet."

Of course, it might have been just a little presumptuous on her part to rip his Viper apart.  Maybe.  But that nagging guilt wasn't enough to turn aside the wave of anger she was riding.  It felt good, familiar.  Made her want to hit something.

It was just her luck that the corridor was empty when the lift finally stopped.  She'd have enjoyed getting sent to the brig this morning.  Maybe there, I could get some sleep.

It was that thought, finally, that had the anger ebbing.  She tried to hold onto it, tried almost desperately to build it back up, to keep from tumbling back down to where she'd started her day.  But the damage was done. 

By the time she reached the CAG office, the nausea was back.  With it came exhaustion.  She had to drag each foot forward, one after the other, until she could collapse into a chair in Ripper's - no, Lee's -- office.  Chilled to the bone, she sat and shivered, and waited.  Frak, Thrace, pull yourself together before Lee gets here.  The last thing she wanted was to have to explain herself to her friend, anymore than she already did.

But it seemed the lack of sleep and morning's labor had taken their toll.  The best she could hope for, at the moment, was keeping the nausea controlled.  She did not want to throw up in Lee's new office. 

Which, she noticed suddenly, he must not have moved into, yet.  The walls, the desk, the floor - everything was bare.  Not a single reminder of Ripper remained, and the air had that faint antiseptic smell that said maintenance had been through here recently, cleaning every spare surface.  The door to his sleeping quarters was open, and she could see the same military thoroughness there, as well. 

She wondered, briefly, what they'd done with Ripper's things.  Had his wife made it off Geminon?  Did he have sisters or brothers?  Children?  She couldn't remember, and the realization unexpectedly depressed her. 

How could she have served under the man for two years, and know so little about him?  Not even enough for a proper eulogy.

The door opening interrupted her thoughts, and years of training had her on her feet and at attention despite the roiling of her stomach.  Beads of sweat broke out on her brow, even as she still shivered with cold.  Not good.  Please, Lords, don't let me be sick.

She could see the stiffness of Lee's posture from the corner of her eye, knew he was braced for a fight.  Wished he'd get it frakking over with, so she could go crawl into her bunk. 

He came around to stand in front of his desk, facing her, and frowned.  He'd always been a little hard for her to read; one thing Lee Adama excelled at was keeping his emotions in check.  And now, with his face as stiff and expressionless as his father's, she couldn't begin to guess what he would say, or how angry with her he might still be. 

Even if she'd tried, she'd have been wrong.

"Sit down, before you fall down."

There was no anger, no tightly controlled frustration in his tone.  In fact, he sounded. . .concerned.  She stared at him for a moment in shock, and Lee raised a single brow.

"That's an order, Kara.  I will throw you bodily into that chair, if I have to."  He smiled faintly.

She sat.  So did he, choosing the edge of his desk, rather than the chair behind it.  For some reason, she now dreaded this conversation far more than she had a few minutes ago.  A dressing down didn't intimidate her.  That look in Lee's eyes did.

She waited while he looked away for a moment, rubbed at his temples in a habit she knew well.  He had a headache, probably a bad one.  And as usual, wasn't taking a med for it.  Stupid, stubborn Adama men, she thought, briefly amused.  But his next words sobered her instantly.

"You going to tell me about it?" he asked quietly, looking intently at her once more. 

She kept her own gaze fixed firmly on his shoulder - the one she'd inadvertently smeared with grease.  It didn't raise even a flicker of amusement in her, now.  She didn't try to dissemble, not with Lee.  It wouldn't have gotten her anywhere.

"No." 

"Kara. . ."

She dropped her eyes, tried unsuccessfully to rub the grease off her fingers.

"Damn it, Kara."  Now came the frustration. 

She just shook her head, jaw clenched tight.  Very few people had the power to move her to tears.  For reasons she refused to examine very closely, the Adama men had all been blessed with that ability. 

"Look at you!"  Agitated, Lee stood up, waved a hand in her general direction.  "You're exhausted, you've barely slept, if at all, and Cally tells me you've been working your ass off down on the flight deck for half the night, and all this morning!" 

He crouched down in front of her, took both of her hands in his own.  "I'm your commanding officer, but I'm also your friend.  What's going on, Kara?"

It took real effort, now, not to meet his eyes.  She tried unsuccessfully to tug her hands free, but he only tightened his hold.  Then he played his trump card.

"Do I have to go to the Commander with this?"

She glared at him, realizing too late that he'd trapped her.  Caught by those damn blue eyes, she couldn't look away, and his threat had shame and anger warring within her.  She took a deep breath, and then another.  When she was sure she could speak levelly, she said,

"That was low, Lee.  Really frakking low."

He shrugged, completely unrepentant. 

"I'm not above using my father as leverage, Kara.  If you think I won't let this go, how do you suppose he'll respond?"  He paused, let her think on that for a second.  "He worries, you know.  About you.  The way he would for one of his own children."

And that did bring a sting of tears to her eyes. 

"Unfair," she managed, wiping ineffectually at her face.  She frakking hated crying in front of anyone. 

"Here."  Lee shook his head, smiling.  "You're just making it worse, smearing grease all over the place."

She waited patiently, like a child, while he used a white square of cloth to clean her face of both tears and grease.  His touch was gentle and firm, his hands warm where they brushed her skin.  She realized suddenly that she'd stopped shivering.  Her stomach had settled. 

The room began to feel uncomfortably close, and strangely warm.  She took a deep breath, only to inhale Lee - the soap he used in the shower, the faint masculine scent of aftershave, and a trace of whatever chemical they used in the laundry to clean flight suits. 

It shouldn't have been in any way arousing.  It was. 

"Great, thanks," she said quickly, snatching the cloth from his hand and standing up so fast she was almost dizzy.  "I've got it."

He just looked at her, his lips parted as if he'd been about to say something.  Kara watched him warily, trying to appear like she wasn't watching him at all.  He stood up, his flight suit shifting and tightening in interesting places with the movement.  Why the hell was she noticing the way Lee filled out a flight suit?  Frak! 

Going for casual, she turned her back to him, trying to regain some semblance of composure, and hiding her suddenly burning face all at the same time.  Post-battle stress, she told herself firmly.  Anyone with a bunk big enough for two and the illusion of privacy is having a little post-battle fun.  It's just a natural physiological response, and has nothing to do with Lee whatsoever!

She cleared her throat, wondered why the hell he wasn't saying anything.  He'd certainly had plenty to say before.

"Look," she said finally, twisting the cloth she held into knots, "I didn't have the most restful sleep last night.  I went to the hangar hoping the Chief would let me fly, and when he didn't, I put myself to work instead."

Lee didn't answer right away, and the silence in the room felt heavy with things left unspoken.  Kara closed her eyes.

"Because you couldn't sleep, or because you didn't want to?" he asked finally. 

Relief flooded Kara.  Either he'd attributed her strange behavior to the conversation, or he was ignoring that anything had happened.  She'd happily accept either scenario.  Belatedly, the meaning of his words registered, and she swung back around, frowning.  He was leaning back on his desk, a good ten feet or so separating them, his arms crossed and expression neutral.

"I know about the nightmares, Kara."  He said it gently.  "How many times did the three of us - you, me, and Zak - pull all-nighters together?  We all fell asleep over the books sometimes, and yours wasn't always. . .restful."

"Right," she said mechanically, mouth dry.  "Did you ever. . .?"

"Ask Zak?  No.  I figured if you wanted it shared, you'd have shared it.  It wasn't any of my business, then."

He didn't need to add that it was, now.  That was just understood.  On a professional level, he had every right to display concern over something that might or might not effect her job performance.  On a personal level. . .she didn't want to think about that right now.

"Ok," she said, wiping a hand over her mouth.  "Ok."  She could feel it in the back of her throat, that hint of nausea returning.  Lords, she couldn't even think about the past without it.  "I guess the. . .um. . .simplest explanation works best."

Lee made some movement, looked like he was going to say something, but she held up a hand and shook her head.  If he stopped her, she wouldn't get through it. 

"I've had nightmares since I was eight.  Chronic.  Social workers made sure I had a bunch of fancy therapy, but it never really worked."  She threaded a hand through her short hair, paced.  "You wouldn't understand.  Neither did Zak, really.  You both had great childhoods.  I mean, sure, your parents got divorced.  Big deal."  She had to stop, take a couple of shallow breaths.  She shot a glance at Lee, something halfway between apologetic and accusatory.

"I don't mean to belittle it, Lee.  I don't.  But my childhood. . .let's just say it was less than ideal.  I won't talk about it, but if you want to look in my file, you can.  It's sealed, but the Commander can break it if you ask him.  Tell him I said it was ok.  That you should read it."

The hard part finished, she was able to stop pacing, regain some of her inner balance.  Lee was standing closer to her now, as if he'd started to come to her, and then thought better of it.

"I don't have them as often, anymore," she continued.  "Hadn't had one since Zak.  But they always came more in times of stress, and I'm sure this qualifies."

He cleared his throat, looked at her as if asking permission to speak.  She nodded almost imperceptibly.

"Will this. . .continue, do you think?" he asked hesitantly.  "I mean, we're likely to be under stress for a long time.  I should be asking as your commanding officer, asking if you think this will affect your ability to perform.  But I'm not.  I'm asking as your friend."

He leaned forward, and she froze.  Please don't touch me, she thought frantically.  I don't want to cry again.  Maybe some of what she felt showed on her face, because he stopped. 

"I don't know," she said.  "I hope to hell not.  I mean, how self-centered would that be?  Only fifty-five thousand people left in our entire race, out of billions, and I lose sleep over some stupid childhood trauma."  She gave a shaky, humorless laugh.  "That's pretty pathetic."

"No," Lee disagreed immediately.  "It's not.  You're one of the strongest people I've ever known, Kara.  But give yourself a break."  He looked away, gave his temples an absent rub again.  "I've had dreams - nightmares - since Zak.  Does that make me weak?"

"Of course not."

He smiled.  "Then cut yourself some slack.  If you have to, see Dr. Salik for something to help you sleep."

For the first time since the conversation began, Kara began to feel back on familiar ground.  She gave a quick grin. 

"Like you, eh?  Take something for the headache, Lee."

He shook his head, as she'd known he would, and said exactly the right thing, to make everything right in the world, to put them back to where they'd been before this whole uncomfortable episode.

"You look like hell, Kara.  Get out of my office.  Go, get some sleep." 

More relieved than she could say, she gave him a hint of her usual smirk, and threw in a mocking salute.

"Yes, sir.  Happy to obey, sir."  Turning smartly on her heel, she started for the door.

"And Kara. . ."  She stopped, didn't turn around.  "If you have anymore problems. . .come talk to me."

She nodded, gave a wave on her way out, didn't trust herself to say anything.  That sentence held too many layers, too many meanings for her to be comfortable with.  And in her current state of exhaustion, she was too emotionally on edge to deal with any of them. 

For the moment, she pushed it all from her mind, and obeyed orders.  She dragged herself first to the showers, then to her bunk.  And this time, when she collapsed face down into sleep, she wasn't troubled by dreams.