Dee was the first one to notice.
After they left New Caprica… Kara… behind, Lee had stopped caring. He didn't want to hide his mark… Kara's mark… anymore.
There was a determination inside of him that he had lost months earlier. He had let himself slip while the Fleet tried to make its new home work. Partially it was due to Kara. Partially it was due to the inactivity. Mostly it was due to the slow and steady means by which he lost his way these past two years. He barely even noticed until it was too late.
He had found his way when he lost Kara and most of the people he loved, when he purposefully left them behind. He was the one who convinced his father to leave them behind. He was responsible for this.
And gods damn it, if it was the last thing he did, he'd get them back.
His father had been the one to actually state the obvious, that they were coming back. Lee didn't have to tell the Old Man that he had been about five seconds away from suggesting the same thing.
So they ran. For two days, they jumped every hour on the hour just to make sure they were clear of the Cylons. They jumped to live, to give those they loved another chance.
The second he felt he could let his guard down, Lee called his father and told him he had an out-of-the-box plan. When Lee was done explaining, William Adama paused for a few seconds before asking, "You came up with that because of our girl, didn't you, son?"
Lee never responded, but then he really didn't have to.
It would take four weeks to return to the Twelve Colonies. That was one hundred, sixty five days less than it took them to get away. Lee figured that was just enough time to get himself back on track.
The first day, he spent ten straight hours in the gym. By the seventh day, he had gotten back into the habit of running through the corridors each morning. On the eighth day, Dee came to relay the message that his father wanted to speak with him. That was only her first mistake.
She didn't knock on his hatch before entering the quarters. She didn't leave when she heard the shower running. She let herself believe that Lee would want to see her.
When Lee stepped out of the head with a towel wrapped around his waist, it was the first thing she saw.
"When did you get a tattoo?" she asked in a slow and careful voice Lee had learned was nothing but trouble.
"Seven months ago," Lee said, moving to the dresser beside his bed. He pulled out a pair of sweatpants and, slipping them on, waited for her next question.
"Am I supposed to pretend like it doesn't look familiar?"
Lee looked down at his arm before shrugging. "Most famous tattoo on New Caprica? Of course you're supposed to recognize it."
"Why is it there?' Dee said, motioning towards him without really looking. She couldn't really look.
Lee smiled at her, a small, secret smile that they both knew was really not meant for her. "She didn't want to be empty anymore."
"I came here to let you know the Old Man wants to see you."
Lee continued to stare at Dee and waited. She obviously wanted some sort of response, but he had no clue what that was.
"I don't understand you," Dee hissed, getting up off the couch. She gave Lee one last look before leaving the commander's quarters.
Lee stared at the closed hatch for a few minutes before whispering, "I don't even understand myself most of the time."
Two days later, he looked up from his workout to see Helo leaning against the gym wall. It had taken long enough for the word to reach him. "Care to go a few rounds?" Lee yelled between jabs.
Helo smirked and pushed off the wall. "The way people are talking, you've been a man on a mission the past couple weeks, so no, I don't fancy going a few rounds."
"Wise choice," Lee said, resting his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. "I take it you've been speaking to Dee."
"I've been speaking to Hot Dog. He's been speaking to Dee."
Lee straightened up and gave Helo a nod. "Do you want to go grab a drink?"
Helo hesitated for a second before laughing. "Frak, yes, sir."
Lee and Helo walked side by side to his quarters. Lee found himself wondering why he and Karl Agathon had never been friends. They had a lot in common, starting from their insane loyalty to the Old Man and ending with their insane devotion to a certain ex-Viper pilot. Lee vaguely remembered a small moment when he was sitting in what was supposed to be his one and only pilot briefing meeting on Galactica. Helo had given him a friendly wave. What the frak had happened to change that?
Oh right. Cylons.
"Where do you want me to begin?" Lee asked, holding a bottle of beer out to Galactica's tactical officer.
Helo kicked his feet up onto the table in front of the couch. "Wherever the frak you want to start is fine with me."
"I went to visit Kara seven months ago. I missed her."
"I always wondered where you went those two weeks," Helo said with a small nod. "I always figured it had something to do with the Old Man."
"It did. My father sent me there on assignment. He had no clue that I wanted to go. He had no clue that I was dying to spend time with her." Lee sighed and sat down on the couch next to Helo. "I created a reason to keep Kara with me for the two weeks."
Lee raised an eyebrow in question and suddenly remembered how perceptive Helo could be. "How long…"
Helo took a sip of his beer. "How long did it take before you two fraked?"
"Longer than I would have imagined."
"We built a little utopia after that. I was leaving and she had Anders. We both knew it so we ignored reality. Then time was up."
"You left her?"
"I couldn't stay," Lee said.
The room filled with silence as Helo thought that one over. His eyes drifted down to the black wings marking Lee's arm. "I always thought it was odd that Kara chose to get a tattoo instead of a ring for her marriage."
"She had to explain it somehow."
"I don't get it. You show up, you two frak for two weeks straight, you leave, and she marries another man as a way to explain her tattoo which happens to match the tattoo of the Commander of Pegasus?"
"In a nutshell, that's how it happened."
"And it doesn't bother you that she married another man?"
"Why should it? Kara and I always knew that we were going back to our normal lives."
Helo shook his head. He didn't have to be a genius to know Lee was lying. The woman he so obviously loved got married to another man. He was upset. "Just answer me one thing, Commander. This rescue mission?"
"Completely and totally about her," Lee said point blank.
Helo finished his beer without another word and set the empty bottle on the table. "You're a good man, Lee. I've always liked you, even when you were a complete frak up."
"Thanks, Helo." Lee watched the old Raptor ECO as he walked out in the corridor before letting out a deep breath and leaning back on the couch. When had his life become so surreal?
His father was the last one to find out about the tattoo. It was the day before they were scheduled to reach Picon. Lee got called over to the Galactica to finalize the mission he was about to lead, seeing as how they only had one month to get the job done.
It was the only thing Lee was confident in right now. They could do this. They would do this.
It happened halfway through the impromptu dinner. Lee wasn't paying attention, and he spilled his glass of ambrosia all down the front of his blues. It was only natural to take his jacket off. The dinner wouldn't end because he was his klutz. Plus, he and his father had yet to talk about the two upcoming months after they've left the Colonies. Lee knew his father was wondering whether he could train that many pilots in time.
Lee realized what he was done as the familiar, stiff tone of his father's voice made his whole body freeze. He had taken off his jacket. He was only wearing his double tanks underneath. His arms were bare.
"I love her, Dad," Lee said, holding his hands up in the air. There was no way he could smooth this over so his father would forget what he was seeing. Lee figured he might as well just come out and say it. "You sent me to her. I love her. I've always loved her, and you sent me to be with her."
Lee looked down at his bicep. "This was never theirs. Everyone thinks it was, but it wasn't. This was ours.'
Adama waited for his son to look back at him before nodding. "I always thought the design was a little off. It didn't fit Kara and her husband. It was more… more…"
"Starbuck and Apollo," Lee finished.
The room filled with silence as neither man could figure out the next step to take. They had actively avoided the topic of Kara since Lee had returned from New Caprica. Adama had sent him down there with an apology and was rewarded with a simple "It's going to take time with Kara. It always takes time." Adama hadn't been strong enough to contact Kara on his own.
When they jumped away from the rest of humanity, Kara became the unspoken topic floating in the air between them. She was the reason they were both working so hard to finish this mission and go back to New Caprica.
"We're getting her back." His father's voice caused Lee to jolt. "Our girl's strong. She's going to hold them off long enough for us to fix the problem."
"You saw the size of their Fleet, Dad," Lee warned.
"Kara's dealt with impossible odds before. She can do this."
Lee let his father's words sit inside his head for a moment before smirking. "Yeah, she probably already has a resistance movement formed."
"Admiral Adama and Commander Adama to the CIC."
"Let me see what this is about," Adama said to his son. They were in the middle of an important discussion that he really didn't want to interrupt for anything short of momentous. Thirty seconds later, he was hanging up the phone. "We need to get down to CIC now, and you need to get on the line with your XO."
"What's going on?" Lee asked, already pulling his jacket on.
"The jump coordinates were slightly off. We were closer to Picon than we thought."
"We're there?" Lee said, his eyes going wide.
"We're there." Adama paused in the hatchway to squeeze his son's shoulder. "And it appears like something down on that planet has a weapons lock on us."
Lee knew immediately what his father was getting at. The Cylons had left the Twelve Colonies behind, abandoning the very thing they fought so hard to get. If something had a weapons lock on them, chances are it wasn't some kitchen appliance doing the locking. A weapons lock meant hope. It meant there might be a possibility that Lee's plan would actually work out.
Together, the two Adama men hustled down to the CIC. Lee knew that his father was still hesitant, but it didn't matter. Victory was already at their fingertips for one reason only.
Lee knew firsthand that if there was anything Kara would fight for, it was the chance that they might see each other once more.