"Wait a minute – turn around slowly. Check the box again."
Vinson snapped out the order, and Lee knew there was a problem. He saw Kara tense, and suddenly, before he was fully aware of what was happening, gunfire erupted in the bar, sending furniture, glass, and people scattering. Reflexively, Lee dove for the ground, taking Dee with him as he went. Another round of bullets discharged and glass sprayed over them; he covered his head briefly before looking up to see Kara on her hands and knees on the floor not far from the hatch, a stunned look on her face. A marine guard was lying motionless next to her.
"Kara!" he shouted, and she looked over at him. Their eyes met for a moment before she toppled onto her side, a dark stain spreading across her chest.
He felt Dee's hands grasp at his leg as he start to push himself to his feet, trying to stop him from rising. She managed to get a firm hold on his left ankle and he went down hard to the floor just as another round of bullets was fired. Someone screamed, and the gunfire ground to a halt as the hatch door slid shut, locking them all in once again.
People started talking, shouting, but all he could see was Kara lying motionless on the floor six feet from him. He turned and fumbled with Dee's hands, which were still wrapped around his leg. "I'm fine, let me go!" he shouted, scrambling out of her hold and rushing to kneel beside Kara.
"Oh, my Gods. Kara, can you hear me? Kara?" Lee repeated, rolling her onto her back and immediately pressing both hands hard against her chest, near her right shoulder. Her blood felt warm and sticky against his fingers, and he had a momentary flashback to cradling his father in CIC.
"L-Lee . . . are you . . ." Kara gasped out, opening her eyes. Her gaze flitted around for several seconds before coming to rest on his face.
"Ssh, ssh, I'm fine. It's you who got yourself all frakked up, Kara." Lee admonished her, fighting to keep his voice steady as she whimpered and another spurt of blood coated his hands. He looked towards Dee, still sitting on the floor where he'd left her, and tried to control his panic. "Dee, get me something to stop the bleeding - shirts, towels from the bar, anything."
Kara snickered weakly. "You sound . . . w-worried, Captain."
"Shut up, Kara. You're gonna be fine. It's not as bad as it looks." Lee lied, grabbing the towels Dee handed to him and pressing them against the wound. Kara whimpered and twisted beneath his hands, but he didn't let up. He'd hurt her to save her, and they both knew that.
"Lee." Dee whispered beside him. "What can I do?"
"I've got it. Just help me keep her still." he told her, eyes not leaving Kara's face. Her blood was rapidly soaking through the towel Dee had given him, and in a matter of minutes her face had started to lose color. Her gaze was locked on him for the moment, full of fear and something else.
"Y-you're okay?" she asked again, and he wondered if she'd hit her head when she'd fallen on her side.
"I'm fine, Kara, I promise. Just hold still and you will be, too." he told her, putting more pressure on the wound. She whimpered again and Dee crawled on her knees to kneel at Kara's head, placing her hands on the tops of shoulders to hold her steady.
"I'm sorry." Kara whispered.
"I-I'm s-sorry," Kara choked out, for the second time, and Lee looked at her. Fifteen minutes had passed since she'd been shot, and she was starting to struggle for air. Her eyes had taken on a dazed, calm look that frightened him. He hadn't been able to slow the bleeding at all.
"Ssh, you already said that. Don't talk." he told her, quickly replacing the blood-soaked towel he had been using with a new one. It started to soak through almost immediately, and he briefly glanced at Billy, who had crawled over to them and was sitting beside Dee. The young man shook her head in silent acknowledgment that this was bad.
Kara coughed weakly, and turned her head towards him, blinking slowly. He was afraid he saw blood on her lips, but as usual, there was no shutting her up.
"No . . . I lied." she whispered.
"That's okay. The truth is overrated." he told her, forcing the words past the fear that was clogging his throat.
Kara smiled slightly at that. "L-like bright . . . shiny . . . futures?" she asked.
Lee felt tears burn his eyes and nodded. He couldn't look into her eyes, and instead kept his gaze on her chin. "Exactly like that. Now be quiet."
"N-no." she argued.
"Kara, you don't need to say anything." he argued back. She slid her hand across the floor until it bumped into his leg. He felt her fingers curl into a weak fist in the fabric, and finally looked at her face, at her eyes. He wasn't surprised that they were filled with tears. If he let himself, his would be, too.
"I-lied . . . about us. Y-you know . . . there is a-an . . . us . . . right?" she gasped out.
He felt his heart freeze in his chest, skipping several much-needed beats before resuming at a thumping, frantic pace. Oh, Gods, oh Gods, oh Gods, don't do this, Kara. Don't do this. Don't make me do this now. When you're not bleeding to death we'll do this. But he had a panicky feeling that when she wasn't bleeding to death, she'd be dead. So much for getting blown out of the sky by a raider.
"I've always known." he whispered, his voice cracking. "No take backs."
The look of relief on her face was worth what it cost to say the words. She nodded her head, smiling slightly, and then relaxed. Her eyes started to drift closed.
"Kara?" Lee said, fighting the instinct he had to let go of her wound and grasp her head in his hands. She blinked and gazed at him, not seeming to be aware of what was going on around her anymore. She was trying to say something that sounded a frakking lot like she loved him, but the roaring in his ears was making it hard to understand. The shocked look on Dee's face told him she had been saying what he thought she had.
"No! Kara, damn it. No!" Lee shouted, knowing he was yelling at her but not able to stop himself. He resisted the urge to shake her.
"Lee – "
Dee and Billy spoke at the same time, trying to keep him quiet, but there was no need. Lee got himself under control, and leaned close to Kara.
"Kara." he whispered harshly, more calmly. She blinked slowly and her eyes slid halfway shut despite the fact that he was calling her name three inches from her face. He felt frozen. It couldn't end like this. Not like this. "Kara . . . Kara, hold on. Please hold on. I love you, you frakking brat, so hold on! Do you hear me? Hold on."
He could have sworn her lashes fluttered slightly, but none of his pleading or blatant admissions would wake her up. He was forced to kneel at her side, watching her bleed to death and knowing there wasn't anything he could do about it.
Dee stood at the entrance to the sick bay room, watching Lee pace back and forth beside Starbuck's bed. After several moments, he sat down on the edge and ran his hands through his hair, letting out what sounded like a sob. She watched him rock back and forth several times before deciding to intervene. They both needed someone to talk to, she figured.
"Lee." she said softly, treading carefully into the room. His head jerked up, and she felt her already broken heart break just a little more at the look of raw grief on his face - grief for the woman lying in the bed.
His blue eyes were rimmed with red, and he sniffled as she approached, struggling to get himself together. "I-I'm sorry. I should've come to talk with you, but . . . I needed . . ." he couldn't find the words, but she knew what he was trying to say.
"Will she be okay?" she asked, unwilling to say Starbuck's name. Kara. Kara, hold on. Only Lee and the Old Man ever called her by her name. It should have been a sign.
"Doc Cottle thinks so." Lee responded, and she saw tears well in his eyes again as she jerked his head around and rubbed his face. He stood up and approached her. "Gods, Dee . . . I'm so sorry about Billy."
Dee said nothing, but tears filled her eyes and her stomach clenched painfully. Please hold on. I love you, you frakking brat, so hold on! Do you hear me? Hold on. The irony was astounding. She had loved Billy first, and then she had thought she could love Lee Adama . . . all the while Lee Adama had loved Kara first and last, and probably in between, too.
Lee turned to look at her, a sorrowful expression on his face. "You know I'm here if you need to talk, right?"
"I know." she responded, looking at her hands. You know there is an us, right? I've always known, no take backs. She wanted to ask him what that had meant, if he was going to be with Starbuck now, if there was any chance for them . . . and she wanted to kill herself for wanting to ask those questions. She raised her head to say something, anything to fill the awkward silence that was developing, and saw that Lee was looking at her and there was understanding dawning in his eyes.
"Dee –" Lee started, but Starbuck chose that moment to stir, and his head snapped around to look at her.
Dee watched as Starbuck moaned something and Lee grasped her hand, holding it tightly. "Ssh, I'm not going anywhere, I promise. I'll stay right here with you." he whispered. A few seconds later he stepped away from the bed and turned to look at her.
"Dee – " he tried again.
She cut him off before he could go any further, because she knew what he was going to say. "I'm gonna go. I-I'm really glad she's okay."
Dee wasn't surprised when he simply nodded his head and let her walk away without a word. She appreciated that he had offered to let her talk, but she didn't think she could bear to have Lee Adama as a friend, not after this. There were too many things she most definitely wanted to take back.