Lee's used to being on the outside.
All his life, it's seemed like there's an invisible bubble separating him from the rest of the world. He can see what's outside the bubble, and touch it, even taste it, but he never quite feels part of it. Never quite belongs.
In his own family, he's the odd one out. He's the difficult one, the awkward one, the one his parents don't quite know how to deal with. The one they discuss in hushed voices when they think he can't hear.
He remembers a family outing to the beach. He wanders off to paddle in the waves, and when he comes back his dad's helping Zak build a sandcastle while his mother looks on. They're all laughing and talking easily, and as he watches Dad reaches out and tenderly ruffles Zak's hair. Lee has to turn back and stare out to sea until the stab of pure envy goes away.
Time passes, and his parents are no longer talking in hushed voices but shouting angrily behind closed doors. But they're still pretending he can't hear. Every time he tries to confront them about what's happening they say that everything's fine, identical strained smiles fixed firmly in place.
Zak accepts what they say with a desperate eagerness, but Lee can't. He tells them as much, but they act like he's stupid and making a fuss over nothing.
The three of them stumble along, acting like everything is normal, until Lee just wants to scream at them. He can't bear it. It's like seeing a tidal wave hurtling towards the shore while everyone else lazes obliviously on the sand. He can't understand them. Is he the only one who can see what's really happening?
In the end the tidal wave breaks and his father leaves. They move to a different town, a different house and Lee watches his mother and Zak with silent scorn as they try to pretend that everything is fine. What's the point when everything is so obviously wrong?
Once, late at night, he hears Zak crying in his bedroom, and then their mother's tears as she tries to comfort him. It seems they're not fooling themselves any more than they're fooling him.
He feels the tears press against his eyes, and almost – almost – goes in to join them.
But that would mean admitting that he misses his father.
And he won't do that.
Dad visits regularly, though not as often as Zak would like.
The first time Lee watches from the kitchen as the door opens and Zak hurls himself into their father's arms, as if nothing had happened. The sight sparks such fury that he storms upstairs, ignoring his father's voice and outstretched hand. Hurtles into his room, slamming the door and locking it behind him.
His mother follows him, and when he refuses to let her in, she scolds him through the door, telling him to give his father a chance. To stop being so childish. Every word only makes him angrier. How can she defend him, after he left her, left all of them?
Later his father comes to talk through the door as well, but Lee puts his headphones on so that he can't hear him, even if he wanted to.
Towards evening Zak climbs in through the window, and somehow – Lee's not quite sure how – persuades him to come down for dinner. Zak's always been the only person who never seems bothered by his moods, who can meet his fierce silences and his outbursts alike without turning a hair.
Secretly, Lee's always wished he could be more like Zak. Cheerful, accepting, easy to love.
But he's just not made like that.
The first time the invisible bubble bursts, he's sixteen.
He's up in a plane for the first time, and suddenly the world changes. Up here in the blue, soaring without restraints, everything seems close and real and vivid. He feels truly alive for the first time. It doesn't matter if he's alone up here, because everybody is.
He's finally found somewhere he belongs.
He pushes through the last years of school with single-minded drive. His classmates drift through their days, trying to decide what to do with their lives and enjoying themselves in the meantime, but he's too busy to join in. He knows what he wants to do and who he wants to be, and nothing matters but working towards that. Nothing matters but flying, getting back to the place he belongs.
He drifts on the fringes of the crowd in the Academy as he has in school. Not shunned, but not one of the group either. His last name doesn't help, as everyone assumes that's what has got him there rather than his own merit. By the time he proves them wrong it's too late; he's already settled into his old familiar position of outsider and onlooker. Not that he really cares – finally he's learning to fly, and beside that everything else pales into insignificance.
The second time the bubble bursts, he's twenty-two.
He has a rare break from War College, so he visits Zak, anxious to see how he's managing in Academy. In typical Zak fashion, he's struggling with the flying, but dating his flight instructor.
Lee's wary of her at first meeting. Loud and brash, she's the type of person who usually makes him uncomfortable. But then she says something that makes him laugh, and he makes her laugh back, and soon they're trading stories and jokes and insults as if they've known each other for years. The next day she drags him off to the simulators, insisting they fly together, sure he'll enjoy it.
They soar through the simulated dark of space, blasting Cylons, instinctively ducking and diving around each other, covering each other's backs, feinting and tricking the enemy with barely a word exchanged between them. Instinctively knowing where the other will be.
It's a revelation.
For the second time in his life, he feels like he belongs somewhere.
It's ridiculous, of course.
She doesn't belong with him. She belongs with Zak, and soon there's a ring on her finger to prove it.
He's on the outside as usual, second best to Zak as he's always been.
He pretends it doesn't hurt. Almost convinces himself.
Then abruptly, without warning, Zak is gone.
Lee stands rigidly by the grave, arm around his mother, and feels something beginning to crack inside. Because he's just lost the only person who has always been able to reach him, hard as he sometimes tried to push him away. The one person who has loved him, has come closest to understanding him.
And Lee knows who is to blame for his loss.
All it takes is two words. Two words of awkward comfort from his father, and all the anger, all the bitterness comes spewing out. For once he doesn't walk away, doesn't push it all back inside. For once he says exactly what he wants to say, and he doesn't care how much damage he does. He just wants his dad to hurt as much as he is.
Of course, he's in the wrong again, as usual. His mother, visibly distraught, doesn't understand how he can say such things, how he can believe them. She wants him to talk to his father, take the words back. Ease his pain.
He won't take them back. Because every word is the truth, although of course she wants to ignore it, just as she ignored the truth when her marriage was falling apart.
His father killed Zak. He isn't going to forget. Or forgive.
Lee expects that kind of reaction from his mother. But when Kara says the same things, he's astonished, and then hurt. She's the one person he thought would understand, would share his anger.
Then she tells him she's joining his father's ship, and all the breath is knocked out of him.
She flies off to join Galactica, and Lee's alone again.
During the next two years, the invisible bubble gets stronger and harder. People drift through his life, but none of them stay for long.
Until Gianne. He's never sure why she sticks. Perhaps because she's more persistent than the others, and it's nice to be wanted. He never quite connects with her, never feels really there, but she doesn't seem to notice. It's simple and it's easy.
That is until she announces that she's pregnant.
He panics and pushes away, retreats as he always does when his detachment is threatened. When he recovers his balance he regrets it bitterly, feels incredibly guilty for not thinking of her rather than himself.
He goes back, but it's too late by then. She's gone, and he never does find her, however much time he spends looking.
He thinks that if he's anything like his own father – and deep down he knows he is, although he'd die rather than admit it - then the kid will be better off without him.
Then the world ends, and it all becomes a moot point anyway.