The world ends, but some things haven't changed.
Lee's still on the outside, pitched into a job he's not ready for, commanding people who don't know him and half dismiss him just because of his last name.
He's talking to his father again, since Kara's confession, but things haven't really changed there, either. He still comes second in his father's eyes, although it's Kara who holds first place now, rather than Zak.
It's her his father has his ritual jokes with. Her he tells stories about his flying days that Lee's never heard.
Then she's lost, and his father's desperation is clear to see.
He tells Lee it would be worse if he was lost, but Lee doesn't really believe him.
One thing about this new world is different, though.
Through everything, Kara is there by his side. They fly together, eat together, drink together, play triad together, laugh and fight and grieve together.
The crew starts to refer to them in one breath, as a single entity : 'Starbuck-and-Apollo'.
It's odd. He's never been part of a pair before, has always walked on his own.
It feels strange. But he thinks he likes it.
The third time the bubble bursts is on Colonial Day.
It starts when he sees Kara in that dress and his breath is stolen away, not just by the sight of her but by the knowledge that she wore it for him.
Then he's dancing with her and his hand is on her bare shoulder, and his face is in her hair, and the bubble disappears entirely. For the first time ever he's completely there, wholly in the moment, feeling alive in every cell of his body.
It's exhilarating but it's also damn scary. Too much emotion, too abruptly. He feels an overwhelming desire to escape, to catch his breath, to adjust, and when Baltar asks to cut in, Lee lets him. Walks away.
The next day, it turns out Baltar cut in more ways than just the one.
It hurts, it hurts more than he wants to admit, but there's a secret feeling of relief as well. Because it justifies the way he's always lived. It proves that he was right to be wary, right to want to keep life at a distance.
He vows he won't let anyone entice him out again – not even her. He pushes her away as hard as he can, to make sure she doesn't try.
Although he didn't mean to push her all the way to Caprica.
Lee's always thought that he didn't need anyone. Has taken pride in being aloof and self-sufficient.
Over the next few weeks, with Kara gone and his father fighting for his life, as he sits in the brig with too much time to think, he realises how wrong he's been.
He needs them, needs both of them. He doesn't want to imagine his life without them.
Obviously he's not as strong as he thought.
The fourth time the bubble bursts is on the Astral Queen.
There's Kara, finally, against all the odds. Her face lights up at the sight of him, and he just breaks. He hugs her. Kisses her. Even tells her he loves her.
He laughs it off, quickly covers it up, but there's no taking it back.
He thinks the gods must be smiling on him, because he gets his father back as well, if a little frailer and older.
When he hugs Lee, for the first time in years Lee doesn't pull back.
He begins to believe that perhaps he has finally found somewhere to belong. With his father. With Kara. With the Galactica.
Then the Pegasus turns up, and everything falls apart.
He listens to Kara telling him she's going to shoot an unarmed woman. He listens to his father telling him that it's his decision, and Lee has no right to question it. That the President approved it. He wants to shake some sense into both at them. It's murder, plain and simple, don't they see that? It's like he's in some crazy looking-glass world where only he can see the truth.
When the Blackbird is blown apart and he's left floating through space, Lee could almost laugh at the irony of it.
Here he is in the reality of the way he's felt all his life; floating cold and alone in his glass bubble, watching remote and untouched as everyone else lives and struggles and dies around him.
He's had enough of it. When the dark water beckons oblivion, it's too tempting to resist. When he slides in, it's so smooth and easy.
It's hard to leave Kara, but he knows Zak is waiting for him at the bottom.
But they drag him back.
He feels more of an outsider than ever, walking like a ghost through a world where he doesn't belong, that he was ready to leave behind. Everything seems muted, muffled, distant.
It scares him. Before he's always been remote from choice; knowing that he could break through the bubble if he needed to. Now he's not sure he can. He's not sure he's capable of feeling anything any more.
So he tries anything he can think of to change that. Tries women (though not her, of course, never her). Tries alcohol. Tries losing himself in his work. But nothing seems to work. Nothing seems to break through the cold.
Flying always fixed everything before, but he's still grounded and it's barred to him.
He doesn't belong anywhere.
Then one night, Kara kisses him.
More than kisses him, in fact – and for a few precious moments the cold disappears. He feels alive again.
But it doesn't last long. It turns out she's hung up on some other guy, and he's just convenient and there.
On the outside again. He should be used to it by now.
When he's shot, it should be the perfect opportunity. To just let it all slip away, and go. For good this time.
But three people stop him.
Kara, staring at him as the marine drags her away, eyes wide with guilt and horror. He can't lay that burden on her. Not after Zak.
Dee, hands pressing painfully on his wound, telling him not to leave her. He doesn't understand why she cares so much – all they've really been to each other is a shoulder to lean on – but it warms him all the same.
His father, dropping to his knees beside him. Even half-conscious, Lee can hear the anguish in his voice as he says his name, the desperation in the grip on his hand.
For the first time he realises – more, he knows – that his father loves him. Needs him. Would break if he lost him.
So he starts to fight back.
Things are better after that. For the first time he has his father's affection and approval, and he knows it. When he hands over the commander's rank pins, eyes shining with pride, Lee's breath catches, and all the hurt of the past melts away.
He even makes peace with Kara. As he holds her in his arms the old feeling of belonging raises its head again, and he dares to think that maybe this time it will stay.
He should have known better.
Kara runs her rescue mission to Caprica, and finds the man she loves. The old patterns re-assert themselves. Lee watches her in his arms, laughing and happy, and knows that this is the end, that he doesn't belong with her. Never has and never will.
She sweeps away, to the planet, to love and marriage and a life that doesn't include him.
Lee has his ship. Has Dee, too, though it's like it was with Gianne, he never feels like he's really there. It falls apart in the same way too, when she gets too close, too serious, and he instinctively pulls back.
As more people leave and the ship grows quieter and colder, he has all the time in the world to think.
And he does think. Seriously. For the first time he considers that maybe it's his own fault that he's always been on the outside. That the problem isn't that other people don't care for him, but that he's too scared to let them. Because it's so much easier to block everyone out than to actually feel something and take the risk of being hurt.
He faces up to the fact that he lost Kara through his own fears. He had his chances with her, but he chose to let them pass, chose not to risk it.
Too late now. But he vows to himself that if by some miracle he gets a second chance, he won't frak it up.
Against all the odds, he gets one.
Her husband is dead and New Caprica gone, and she's back in the fleet, flying as his CAG. It breaks his heart to look at her, because she's not the Kara she used to be. She's tired and pale and there's a sadness that never leaves her eyes.
He wants to make her smile again, more than he's ever wanted anything.
So he hatches a plan.
One day he appears in the hangar bay, dressed in his flight suit, and tells Kara he's flying the CAP with her today. She just nods silently, but there's a flicker of warmth in her eyes.
Off they go. First time flying together in over two years, and yet it's as easy and instinctive as it has always been since that first time in the simulators, all those years ago.
Halfway through the patrol, Kara's voice comes soft and hesitant over the coms.
"I missed this, Lee. Missed you."
"Me too," he replies without thinking. Then he takes a deep breath and for the first time in his life he breaks through the invisible bubble voluntarily, without anyone having to push him into it.
"Kara – being with you – it's where I belong. The only place I've ever belonged."
Then Kara's viper swings around in front of his so they are nose to nose. Lee can see her face, and she's smiling. A proper, full smile, with all her old radiance.
His heart catches. The risk was worth it. If she mocks him, teases him mercilessly about this for the rest of his life, it will have been worth it just to see that smile.
She waits until he smiles back, and then says, "Me too."
Lee's heart thumps, and as his eyes lock with hers he realises that he's not on the outside any more.
Whatever happens, he will always belong here. Belong with Starbuck, hurtling through the air.
In time, perhaps he'll belong with Kara on the ground too.
He'll make sure of it. Because he's not afraid to live any more.
Author's Note: Lee is my favourite character, and as he didn't even appear in my first BSG story, I wanted to write him a story of his own. I hope it makes sense - trying to figure out his head in series 2 is not easy! Any feedback appreciated.