Mine - part two

oooooooooooooo

Frak, frak, frak! Lee thought, for the thousandth time since learning he'd been promoted to Commander of Pegasus. He should have been ecstatic - a command of his own and he was barely past thirty - that was unheard of. Of course, these were different times now and the prestige really didn't matter anymore. But to be honest, he was terrified of the thought of command. He'd watched his father often enough to know the responsibility was awesome. But really, who else was there? No one on Pegasus was qualified for the job (had they all been executed by Cain?), and the only other real candidate was Tigh. And no one wanted him in command again. He'd nearly annihilated the human race single-handedly last time - who'd trust him again?

So Lee had had no choice but to accept it., knowing it would take him away from everyone he loved. He'd had a tearful goodbye with Dee - tearful on her part anyway. Lee wasn't really the emotional type, and though he was going to miss her, she wasn't the one his heart was aching over. She had been good to him though, and he felt bad knowing what he'd done to her in return.

He stood in the hangar bay, ready to step aboard his raptor, looking back longingly at Galactica's battered decks and already wishing he was coming back home. How did this place become home? His eyes met his fathers - comfort, assurance, and even love were there. They shared a small smile and Lee knew his father could see all his fears. Adama nodded slightly.

Lee's eyes wandered the room and stopped when he saw her, leaning against the wall nonchalantly, looking like she didn't care that he was leaving. But he could see that was just a facade - her eyes were desperate, the sadness shining out of them like a beacon. Gods, I didn't even get to say goodbye to her, he thought, and his hand twitched as he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. He looked at her with such a look of intense sadness in his eyes that Adama had to glance around to see what - or who he was looking at. Kara. No surprise.

As Lee fought to tear his eyes away from her, she mouthed three words silently to him - 'I hate you'.

It was three weeks before he'd see her again.

ooooooooooooooooo

"Pegasus, this is Galactica Raptor two-eight-six requesting permission to land."

Lee's ears pricked up. He'd know that voice anywhere.

"Raptor two-eight-six, this is Pegasus. Who am I speaking with?" Hoshi the communications officer asked. Lee's mouth dropped open. He really didn't know what he was getting himself into there did he? No one talked to Starbuck like that!

"What the hell does it matter?" came the obviously irritated response.

"I'm sorry, I can't grant you landing privileges till I know who's piloting your ship."

"This is Captain Thrace, callsign Starbuck," she answered in an overly sarcastic voice. "I'm on my way in."

Lee smirked. That was his Starbuck - always bucking the rules and getting away with it. Hoshi looked at Lee helplessly.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of it. It's okay," he smiled reassuringly. "Smithson," he said, glancing over at the next most senior officer. "You have the comm."

"Yes sir," he replied as Lee exited CIC. There was no way Kara was going to be on his ship and he not get to see her.

He just beat her to the flight deck and was standing nonchalantly against a nearby post as the hatch hissed open. "So, to what do we owe this unexpected visit?" he asked, hoping he sounded less nervous than he felt.

"I was in the neighbourhood..." she said, smirking slightly. She stepped down easily, looking for all the world like she wasn't terrified of being in Lee's orbit again. When Adama had asked for a few things to be taken to Pegasus, she'd volunteered immediately. It was unorthodox for the CAG to leave the ship on a 'gopher' run but he knew how close the friendship was between the two and knew also how much they must be missing each other. So he'd allowed it.

"Actually, the Admiral sent some stuff for you," she admitted, reaching into the back of the raptor and pulling out two boxes and a file folder.

"Thanks," he said shortly, taking them from her, fireworks exploding through both of them as their fingers touched. "Does it require a response?"

"Dunno," she shrugged. "I'm just the messenger."

"Good thing we didn't shoot you then huh?" he quipped. She didn't laugh. "Get it? Shooting the ..."

"Bad joke," she interrupted. A meaningful look passed between them.

"Sorry," he apologized softly, as the mech team began their routine inspection of the ship. "Come on, let's go to my office and I'll take a look at everything."

They walked side by side, Lee leading slightly, being the senior officer. Others they passed nodded cordially at him; some murmured 'Commander,' as they passed and Kara was glad to see a high measure of respect on their faces. Good, she thought. He deserves it.

As he swung open the hatch, she hung behind, almost afraid to enter. Lee looked back at her, standing just in the doorway, a confused look on his face. "You coming in?" he asked.

"I uh ..."

It stung. She didn't want to be with him. Then again, why should she, he asked himself. Every time we're together, I push her and we end up hurting each other.

"I won't touch you, I promise," he said quietly, sadness evident in his eyes.

She walked in and shut the hatch behind her. "What if I want you to?" she asked in a small voice.

Lee's eyes widened. He didn't know what to say. "Kara, I ..." he began, but she closed the space between them and put a finger across his lips.

"Don't say it. I know." His eyes pleaded with her. "You know it can't be, now do you job Commander, and I'll head home."

They stared at one another for a long moment, then Lee turned his concentration to his work, sorting through pages and signing necessary forms.

"Here you go," he said finally, handing her the file folder back without looking at her.

"Thank you," she said softly. Then she reached forward impulsively and kissed him. Lee stood shocked for a moment, then gave in. The kiss wasn't hard or demanding like the other times they'd kissed, but more one of longing, of loneliness and desperation. She broke it off finally and pulled away from him. As she reached the doorway, she turned back for a moment. "Dee misses you - she asked you to come visit soon." Then she was gone. No goodbye, nothing.

Oh Kara, he thought, heart constricting again. Could he really keep doing this? Every time he had to let her go, his heart shattered just a little more.

After a few stunned moments, he raced after her, but she was already in pre-flight by the time he reached the flight deck.

Damn you Kara - I hate you, he thought as she flew out of his life again.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Two weeks had gone by, and he couldn't wait to get to Galactica. Two weeks since he'd seen her! Not to mention it had been more than a month since he'd seen his father ... and Dee. Dee! She was going to want to spend some serious time with him, and while that wasn't an unpleasant thought, he was desperate to be with Kara.

The taste of her mouth had been on his since they'd kissed, and he couldn't seem to shake it, no matter what he did. Every night he climbed into his bunk, looking across the room involuntarily, expecting to see her, and feeling a pain when he remembered how far away she was. He was dying to touch her again - he'd spent more than a few nights and showers relieving his own tension while thinking of her - but he'd be happy with even a hug at this point. Kara's hugs were amazing - it was like being enveloped in warmth and love.

As the raptor docked, Lee took several calming breaths. The hatch opened and he stepped out, smiling as he saw the familiar faces, his father's first among them. He smiled back and stepped into his embrace, sighing happily. He was home. Even if only for a short while.

ooooooooooooooooooo

"So, I expect you'll want to see Dee. She's on duty for another hour or so, I believe. Shall I relieve her?" Adama offered, their business now completed.

Lee shook his head. "No, it's okay. I'll be here for a while yet." He smiled. "It's good to be home. I can spare another hour or two."

"Did you want to get some dinner then?"

"No... thanks dad. I've got ... other things to do till she's free."

Adama gave him a curious look but said nothing.

"I'll see you when I leave then?" Lee asked uncertainly.

"I'll be there," his father assured him.

Lee left his office and headed down the familiar corridors, smiling at everyone he passed but not stopping to chat with anyone.

He knocked on the CAG's office hatch and waited.

"Come in," came Kara's exasperated sounding voice.

He opened the hatch, entered and shut it behind him, locking it as well.

Kara stood suddenly, looking uncomfortable.

"Didn't know I was here?" he said, a small, lopsided grin on his face - a very 'Lee' smile.

Kara's heart wrenched. "I heard," she said in an offhand way. "Just didn't think you'd have time to see me - being a Commander now and all."

Lee's eyes burned into her. "I always have time for you."

"Don't you have to see her?" Kara asked, a note of jealousy creeping into her voice.

"I will, but she's on duty now."

"Oh." The word held a world of meaning. "I see."

"Kara ..." Lee began, knowing he'd screwed up badly.

"No, I get it. I'm second best," she said softly, the hurt tone in her voice matching the look in her cloudy green eyes.

Lee walked around the desk till he was right in front of her. "You'll never be second best," he whispered.

"Right," she bit out. "You're only here because you can't be with her."

"That's not true, and you know it," he said firmly. "I haven't seen her in a month, and I'm with you - what does that say?"

"It says that you're a bastard who needs a quick lay and can't wait for your 'girlfriend' to get off duty, so you come to Kara 'easy' Thrace instead. " Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms over her chest defensively.

Lee's mouth dropped open in disbelief. "My gods ... you are such a ... I don't know why I even bother with you at all." He turned and strode to the door. "Stupid frakking bitch," he murmured, yanking at the lock.

Suddenly he found himself flat on his back, winded, with Kara sitting on top of him. "Don't you dare walk away from me," she hissed, eyes mere slits.

"Or what?" he shot back.

"You ... don't ... want ... to ... know," she whispered.

"Really - you gonna frak me right here on your office floor? I don't think my girlfriend would like that,' he said spitefully, echoing one of their earlier conversations.

She ripped the buttons of his jacket open and shoved it down his arms. Lee shivered as her fingernails scraped on his skin. "I don't care," she said fiercely, raking her fingernails down his chest and beginning to undo his pants.

"I'm shocked," Lee said sarcastically, putting his arms up under his head as a pillow. "I thought you hated me." His eyes were like cold steel, frigid and unreadable.

"I do, believe me, I do," she said in a low voice, and she ripped down his trousers and pulled them off, throwing herself back on top of him. She gave a nasty smirk as she felt his erection grow through his underwear.

"This," she said, giving him a squeeze, "Is why you bother with me. Because you want me so much more than her." She squeezed hard and was rewarded by a grunt as he flinched in pain.

"Slut," he hissed, moving under her, but his body was out of control. Her touch was driving him crazy, and the fact that she'd taken charge was turning him on immensely.

She raked her fingernails up and down his chest, teasing his nipples through the fabric of his tanks. His breath hissed through his teeth as his body was set afire with desire. Kara slipped her fingers under the waistband of his underwear and slowly slid it down, allowing him to jump up to full attention.

"So, you don't want me huh?" she murmured, taking him into her hands and stroking gently.

He just groaned and threw his hands down on the ground to brace himself. At the rate she was going, he wasn't going to last long!

She stroked him up and down with her hands, legs straddled over his. His hips began to thrust upwards, against his will - he knew he should resist and not let her do this, but he couldn't stop himself.

She lowered her head down and took him in her mouth, applying gentle pressure to the head of him.

"Kara..." he groaned, feeling the edge coming closer and closer.

She too could feel it, as he began to throb against her mouth, and she sucked hard once ... twice ... then pulled off him. "Tell me you want me," she whispered.

"I want you," he rasped, panting, lifting his head off the floor and locking eyes with hers.

She lowered her head and took him deeper into her mouth, licking and sucking with just the right pressure to drive him into a frenzy.

"Kara ... gods please ... Kara ..." he begged, beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead as he struggled to control himself. He'd heard rumours about how good Starbuck was with her mouth, but he'd shrugged them off as wild stories. Seems they were right, he thought, as a pang of jealousy shot through him at the thought of her hands and mouth on other men's bodies. But then coherent thought began to fail him as his body tightened in anticipation.

Kara lifted her mouth off him for a second. "You want me. When you're frakking her, it's me you're thinking of isn't it?" she whispered, teasing him with her fingernails.

He gasped as his body trembled.

"Tell me the truth Lee .. it is me you want isn't it?"

"Yes, yes ... oh Kara ... I want you ... every time I'm with her I think of you ..."

Kara smiled with satisfaction at the naked desire in his eyes, and took him all the way into her mouth. She worked him slowly as he panted and whispered her name over and over again. Finally he was there - body shaking under her as his orgasm climbed to it's apex.

"Kara...!" he yelled, hands gripping her shoulders as he sat up suddenly. "Yes ... oh gods yes Kara!" he gasped, and his eyes slipped shut. "I love you ..." he rasped as his hips thrust upwards and he pulsed hotly in her mouth. She kept going, sucking hard as he thrust repeatedly, drawing his orgasm out longer and longer.

When it finally ended, Kara let him slip out of her mouth and looked up to meet his eyes, nothing but sorrow evident in hers. "You're a liar," she whispered.

Lee looked at her in confusion, body still trembling.

"You don't love me. If you did you wouldn't be with her."

Lee took one hand off her shoulder and stroked her cheek tenderly. "I do love you ..." he began.

"Dump her."

"What?"

"Dump her. Break up with her. If you love me, you can't be with her."

"Kara, I can't just ..."

But she shrugged his hand off her face and stood up angrily. "Then go to her. You want her, fine. Go." Kara said, eyes narrowed once again.

"Kara, I want you ..."

"Get out!" she shouted. "Just leave! Get out of my life and don't come back!" She picked up his clothes and threw them at him.

Lee grabbed them and put them on, his face a mask of anger. He stared at her the whole time he dressed, eyes locked with hers, daring her to drop her mask. He knew underneath the anger there was hurt ... maybe much more, but she was stoic. She was Starbuck, and Starbuck never showed weakness.

Without a word he stalked past her and left her office, slamming the door behind him.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Her arms crept around his waist suddenly. "I've missed you so," she said, kissing his shoulder.

Lee put his arms over hers. "I've missed you too Dee."

He'd been walking furiously till some of his anger subsided, then he'd gone to her quarters to wait for her to go off duty. He knew he was going to have difficulty dealing with her after his encounter with Kara, but he owed it to her not to let his hurt and anger spill over onto her as well.

"Is something wrong? You're acting like you've been running," she asked, sliding around to face him, arms still holding him tightly.

He smiled. "No, I was just walking around the ship. I've missed the old girl."

"She misses you too. Things just aren't the same with Captain Apollo gone." She smiled sweetly and reached up to kiss him. "I hate to say it since she's your friend, but Starbuck is a real bitch. Especially now that she's CAG."

"Really," he murmured, heart beginning to pound at her name.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't insult a friend of yours ..."

"It's okay. She is a bitch. Doesn't come as any surprise to me," he said coldly.

"Well," Dee snuggled into his neck, fingers exploring his torso. "It's because she doesn't have you to keep her in line any more."

Truer than you know, Lee thought ruefully. He'd allowed her to use him to rub off her rough edges on, till she'd been tolerable to the rest of the crew. Now she no longer had that - it was a wonder she hadn't exploded and taken off someone's head.

Lee didn't answer her though, and allowed Dee to take charge. She obviously wanted to get him into bed before he left, and though it was really the last thing he wanted, he went along with her, Kara's words echoing through his mind all the while - 'if you love me, you can't be with her.'

It took Lee longer than usual to come to readiness, something that surprised Dee. "Something wrong?" she asked softly, fingers working all the pleasure spots on his body. "You don't want this?"

But the hurt look in her green eyes was too much like Kara's. It was like a knife in his heart. He closed his eyes - he couldn't stand to look at her.

"I do," he lied, conjuring a picture of Kara in his mind as he threw himself into it, heart and soul. It was wild, passionate - unlike it had ever been before with her. He took control and forced the pace, doing everything his way for the first time. As he felt his orgasm approach, he pictured Kara, feeling her mouth on him, hot and wet, sucking him for all she was worth. He came hard and fast, not really caring if Dee did too, biting his lip to prevent himself from crying out her name.

He collapsed, sated and tired, face buried in her shoulder. "Oh Kara," he whispered, almost imperceptibly, but she felt the movement of his lips.

"Hmm?" she murmured, tracing the scars along his shoulders. Wonder where he got those? she thought. Don't remember seeing them before ...

"Nothing," he whispered. "It's nothing."

ooooooooooooooooooooooo

Lee couldn't believe how happy he was to get back to Pegasus. His time on Galactica, only six hours, had been unbearably long. He'd been so looking forward to being home, but now all home represented was Kara - the friend he'd betrayed and hurt, Dee - the woman he'd betrayed and lied to, and his father - suspicious about something but not knowing exactly what.

The look Adama had given him as he'd prepared to step aboard the raptor had been one Lee had never seen before. He couldn't quite place all the emotions he read there, but sorrow and disapproval were among them. So, how many other ways can you frak up Lee? he'd asked himself on the trip back. If you're not careful, you're going to lose everyone you care about.

ooooooooooooooooooooo

He sat in his office, head in his hands. The word had just come through - the Admiral felt that Pegasus' air group wasn't up to Galactica's standards, so he was trading CAG's in order for them to receive training from Galactica's top instructor, Kara.

Now what was he to do? She was going to be here - be staying here - and they were not only going to be bumping into one another occasionally off-duty, he was now her boss, again. Add that to the fact that she hated him, and you had a recipe for disaster. He didn't know what he was going to do. So he prayed.

He hadn't prayed to the gods since Zack's death, having believed they were responsible for taking away his kid brother. He'd never really been devout anyway - the kind who'd only gone to services once or twice a year for the special occasions - but upon Zack's death he'd forsaken them altogether. But now he prayed for the gods to intervene somehow and not allow things between them to get any more frakked up than they already were.

ooooooooooooooooooo

"There's a WHAT on my ship?" Lee yelled as his father told him the news.

"The cylon-sympathizers have planted a nuclear device on Pegasus, set to detonate in thirty minutes," Adama said tensely.

"How do you ... never mind. We can't possibly evacuate this entire ship in thirty minutes." Lee's voice was desperate. This was the end and he knew it.

"Our raptors are on the way - load yours up and get every pilot in their viper, we'll be there in two minutes."

"But dad, we can't ..."

"Just do it," Adama said forcefully. "We're evacuating the Arctic Sunshine right now. She can hold over five hundred. Get everyone ready. We can do this."

"Yes sir." Lee began giving commands to his junior officers and prepared himself to make a ship-wide announcement telling all hands to evacuate. How the hell could this happen to me? he thought. I never wanted to be here in the first place and now I'm going to die here. For he knew, as all good leaders did, that the Commander always goes down with the ship. Kara - my gods Kara, I never got to make it up with you. I'm going to die and you're still going to hate me - even more once there's no chance of forgiveness. If he'd had time to really think about it, the tears would have flown freely, but his work was more than cut out for him, and a good leader never lets personal feelings get in the way of duty. Yeah, right, just like dad did when Kara was missing on that frakking moon? No, he didn't put Kara's welfare above the rest of the fleet's needs, he thought sarcastically. And what about more recently when Lee himself was shot? No, he didn't decide to give in and negotiate with terrorists because his son was bleeding to death as a hostage.

But really, this train of thought wasn't getting him anywhere. He needed to make sure all of his people got off safely - he owed them that much. The Arctic Sunshine had docked with them and people were piling on - or so Taylor had told him. He and his acting XO, Smithson, had stayed in CIC to monitor the situation from there. Coordination between his pilots and Galactica's raptors had been going well and they'd all made several trips safely.

"Only a couple of hundred left sir," Taylor reported suddenly.

"Good. Well done. Keep me informed." Lee checked his watch. Five more minutes. Frak. His life was over in five minutes and so much was left unsaid, undone ... if only he could find some way to talk to Kara ...

"You go ahead," he said to Smithson. "Make sure they all get out."

"But sir, you ..."

Lee held up his hand for silence. "You know what I have to do," he said, sadness evident in his voice.

Smithson looked at him proudly. "With all due respect, this isn't your ship, sir. You shouldn't go down with it." He put a hand over his heart. "I've been serving on Pegasus since she was launched, let me do the honours."

"I can't let you ..." Lee began.

"Yes, you can. Go, Commander. Back to Galactica where you belong. I'll see it through to the end."

Lee smiled sadly at him and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Go." Smithson repeated. "You don't have much time."

"Taylor reporting all crew members evacuated. I'm on my way to Galactica."

"Copy that Taylor," Smithson said. "Good luck," he said earnestly to Lee as he turned to leave CIC, breaking into a run as he realized he only had three minutes left. Frak! He'd have to skip his flightsuit and preflight and just take off cold if he wanted to make it. And make it he would. He'd been given another chance here and he wasn't going to waste it.

Meanwhile in CIC, the comm crackled to life. "Pegasus, this is Starbuck. Pegasus, are you there?" Her voice was frantic. She knew Lee was still aboard - he was such a pompous ass about following the rules and doing what was right, that he would never desert his ship. She saw the last of the raptors exiting the flight bay and prayed that all the souls on the ship would make it off safely. "Except Lee of course," she muttered, eyes tearing up. "Stupid bastard's gonna go and die on me." The tears began to spill out, pooling at the bottom of her helmet.

"Starbuck, Pegasus. You can turn around and go home. We're now fully evacuated, except ..."

"Where's the Commander?" she broke in, not recognizing this voice.

"Commander Adama is on his way out now." He paused a brief second. "I hope he'll make it," he added softly.

"Frak! Lee, you crazy idiot! You've only got thirty seconds left!" she shouted, though he couldn't hear her. Or so she thought ...

Lee was just firing up the controls, making sure his comm was active in case he needed to call for help. Suddenly he heard Kara's voice, angry, but frantic as well. "Frak Lee! You crazy idiot! You've only got thirty seconds left!"

He started up the engines. "It's nice to talk to you too Starbuck," he said calmly, through his heart was beating nineteen to the dozen.

"Lee!" she shouted suddenly. "Where are you?"

"On my way off this godsforsaken ship, I hope," he answered. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I came for you." she said simply, and those words told him everything. Please don't let me die, not now, please, he prayed, jolting backwards as his ship leapt forwards in takeoff.

At exactly the same moment, a huge explosion ripped through Pegasus, almost tearing it in two. Many subsequent explosions were triggered and the sky lit up with fireworks as the ship blew, piece by piece.

No sign of a viper anywhere. "Lee!" Kara screamed, the tears rushing down her face like a waterfall now. "Lee ..." she repeated, more quietly. "No, don't do this to me, you can't leave me - I need you. Please ..."

The launch tube had suddenly veered sideways as Lee was heading through it, causing him to stop suddenly as his ship got stuck. He wrestled with the controls, frantic to get himself out of there before the explosions he could feel behind him caught up. He finally managed to wrench his ship free and wobbled unsteadily through the rest of the tube, tossing and turning like a boat on the waves as he hit the cold vacuum of space. He had no control whatsoever, but lurched back and forth crazily, causing some serious nausea. He looked out the window to see if he could see what was wrong with his ship. Frak! - one of the wings was completely missing! Must have torn it off forcing his way through the tube.

Now what?

Another explosion close by rocked his ship and pieces of Pegasus flew dangerously near to his canopy. He had to get out of here - now.

"Starbuck? You still there?" he asked shakily, very close to tears.

"Lee?" Her voice came at him, almost a whisper. "You're still alive?"

"I need help," he said, pride going out the window. Kara was the only one who could get him out of this. She was always the one who saved his ass and really, she was the only one who could save his soul too. He'd tried elsewhere, with other people, but to no avail. He always came back to her. She was his home - his heart and his soul. Kara was where he lived, what he breathed, and the only thing that kept him alive.

"Where are you?" she said brusquely, all business when there was work to be done.

"I have no idea, I'm spinning out of control here. Got one wing missing."

"Frak! Hold on, I'll find you." She turned on the speed, heading straight for the debris and what was left of Pegasus, explosions still rocking it wildly.

She sped through, not even bothering to evade the larger pieces, which she just drove relentlessly through, knocking them heavily out of the way. Then she spied Lee - holy frak - it was a wonder he could keep it together at all. Hold on Lee, I'm coming!

"Can you try to still yourself a little? It's gonna be hard for me to stop that spin."

"Not sure," came the reluctant reply. "I'll try." Silence. "Nope, got no attitude control." Lee sounded lost.

"Hold on then, I'm going to stop you."

"You're what? You're crazy Kara!"

"Yup, now shut up and brace yourself 'cause I'm coming in."

Lee's eyes widened as he saw Kara coming towards him. "Oh frak," he said, closing his eyes. He didn't want to see this.

Kara stopped her ship and watched the rotation of Lee's for a second before gunning it and heading straight for him. She slipped under his belly and stopped dead as Lee's ship struck hers. They shook and spun together a few times till Kara eased them under control. She looked up to see Lee's canopy right against hers.

"Hey there," she said. "Still with me?"

Lee opened his eyes, to find only two panes of glass between their faces. "Frakking shit Kara! How the hell did you do that?" His voice was shaky.

"I'm Starbuck, I can do anything," she said cockily, a wide smile splitting her face. Then it darkened. "Hell, Lee, you don't even have a flightsuit on!"

"Yeah well, I didn't have time for the little details."

"Thank the gods you got off safely!" she exploded suddenly, her feelings suddenly overwhelming her. "Let's go home."

She turned them around slowly and headed back to Galactica, using the barest minimum thrusters so she didn't dislodge him. A few minutes later, the relative silence of her comm was broken. Only their desperate breathing had broken it before then.

"Starbuck, Galactica, are you there Starbuck?" The transmission was breaking up. Something must have disrupted her comm system. Probably a piece of that frakking beast, she thought.

"Starbuck, are you there?" It was the Admiral's voice and he sounded worried - more worried than she'd ever heard him.

"Galactica, Starbuck. I'm here."

"Are you okay Starbuck?" he interrupted.

"I'm okay Galactica - and I've got a surprise for you." She paused for dramatic effect. "I'm dragging Apollo's sorry ass back with me." She grinned as Lee shot her an amused look.

"What? Come again Starbuck?" His voice was very nearly a shout.

"Apollo is alive and well. His ship is history, but he's on his way back with me." They could both hear the shouts and applause coming from Galactica's CIC.

"Thank you Starbuck," he said, voice nearly a whisper. Kara could hear the tears he was barely holding onto.

"We're going a little slow here Galactica, so we'll be a few minutes. Have an emergency crew ready in case we have trouble with the landing."

"Copy that Starbuck. We'll be waiting." The cheers were still going strong.

Kara looked at Lee and smiled. "Seems they've missed you Apollo."

"Maybe they're cheering for you Starbuck. You're the hero here after all."

"Maybe Galactica just missed the Apollo - Starbuck combination," she said with a smirk.

Lee stared at her longingly. "So do I," he said softly.

"Yeah, me too," she said, smirk falling away and a look of vulnerability crossing her face.

Lee pressed his palm against the canopy. Kara matched it, and they both knew - forgiveness had been granted.

A few moments later, she removed it, realizing they were approaching Galactica's landing bay. She took a deep breath.

"Hold on Lee, this could be a rough ride."

"Always is with you," he replied, half serious. "Wouldn't have it any other way."

She smiled then turned her attention to the task at hand. She knew that entering the bay wouldn't be too difficult, but the landing itself was tricky. She was flying slightly sideways in order to keep Lee's viper balanced on hers, but as soon as she straightened out, his would tumble and crash. There was no way around that - it was just a question of how easy she could make the letdown. Tylium was highly explosive and crashing the wrong way would cause an instant explosion, killing Lee and probably many of the deck crew as well. Perhaps even herself.

All these thought ran through her head in a split second, then she made her decision on how to land.

"Hold on Lee, here we go," she warned, slowing to a near stop. She began to tip slowly, hearing the screech of metal as his ship slid off hers. She balanced and compensated, trying to let him down as gently as possible. It came loose with a squeal and hit the deck with a great thud, but thankfully no explosion.

Lee popped open the canopy and jumped out, not waiting for help, as Kara lowered her ship to the deck and ripped off her helmet. The canopy opened and stairs were pushed up against the viper for her to exit. She hopped out and practically leapt down the stairs. Lee caught her at the bottom and hugged her fiercely. It didn't matter that his father and Dee were both waiting for him nearby; Kara's arms was where he needed to be.

She held him just as tightly, faces buried in each other's necks, so much being said between them, no words needed. Their lips found each others and met, in love for the first time, knowing this was where they belonged.

Adama felt rather than saw Dee's shoulders droop slightly. It pained him. Dee wasn't family like Lee and Kara were, but he had a special place in his heart for her nonetheless. She had always been there with him, quiet but supportive, until she'd finally spoken up and given him the candid advice he'd needed to hear. In a way, she was responsible for putting the fleet back together. But unfortunately, she wasn't the woman Lee loved. Adama had suspected it all along.

Dee sighed, heart dropping to the pit of her stomach. But she knew she hadn't lost Lee - he'd never really been hers to lose. He'd shared his body with her - even his mind sometimes, but his heart and soul belonged to Starbuck. Always had. She'd tried to convince herself what she had to give was enough, but though he'd tried with her, it obviously wasn't. What he and Kara had was something special - something undefinable. Something that bound them together so closely that nothing and no one could come between them.

The kiss finally ended but they remained joined, Lee's arms wrapped firmly around Kara's waist, and her arms around his neck, one hand twined in his sweaty hair. Their foreheads rested against one another's as they drew deep breaths. Lee stared deep into her eyes.

"I hate you," he said softly.

"Hate, love ... sometimes it's hard to tell the difference," she whispered solemnly, then they both began to smile, knowing the balance of their love-hate relationship had swung in favour of love.

THE END

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Thanks for reading everyone - I hope you enjoyed it and the content wasn't too disturbing. I apologize for the lack of reality in the 'space explosions' - which as we know can't possibly happen since oxygen is required for combustion, but since they always show explosions on the actual show, I figured I'd make it more like an actual BSG episode and write them in. Made it more colourful too.