Rating: M. Sex references.
Spoilers: Extremely mild (ie, I mention it) re the existence and hopeful demise of Pegasus, s2 ep10.
Disclaimers: all characters borrowed from RDM / SciFi and returned in relatively good condition, except the redshirts, who are mine.
She's climbing out of the bed, sweat still beaded on her bare skin, and he realises he should have expected it. Knows that if he lets her go, he'll never catch her again: predictable yet elusive. She's fishing clothes out from under the cot when he wraps an arm around her waist and hauls her back against the pillow, rolling with the motion so he's half over her.
She leers up at him. "Something else you needed, Captain?"
"Mmm," he agrees with a hard kiss. Lee doesn't miss the way her breath catches, takes the opportunity to wrench her tanks out of her grip and hurl them back on the floor with his own. "As a matter of fact..."
She doesn't protest.
She doesn't try and leave at all, the next time.
They're Galactica's worst kept secret; he's pretty sure everyone knows they're not working on rosters when they adjourn to his office after shift. He's pretty sure that the pointed look the Commander gave them the last time they were in CIC together was actually from his father instead. He's nearly sure it was approving.
No one ever comes to knock on the door during those first two hours of the dog watch. The phone never rings, either. He thinks maybe it means that no one minds.
She says she thinks that if anyone has anything negative to say, they better not need any Cylons killed anytime soon.
Their fights are more fun now; they usually result in an early 'meeting' to 'discuss rosters', and frakking Kara's much better than getting her to apologize. Getting her into bed, getting into her tends to remind Lee of why they're really fighting: after all, they're on the same team. They want the same things.
She's screaming at him across the ready room about some pointless permutation of the training programme when it twigs that maybe she's yelling because she knows how it'll end, and he skips the argument, grabs her arm and hauls her back to his office. He's hard before they get halfway down the corridor, and he has her up against the hatch, flight suits discarded in seconds. Lee slides inside her to find her slick and ready.
"Gods," she says, bites his neck, "took you long enough to figure out."
He laughs, squeezes her ass, thrusts and feels them both tremble.
They don't give anyone any reason to complain. She works more shifts than anyone except him, and they don't screw around in duty hours.
Objectivity went out the airlock with any hopes of returning to the Colonies, though, and it doesn't take the other pilots long to figure out that the best way to make it home to Galactica each and every time is to stick close to the CAG, or try and keep up with Starbuck. Most of them try the former, as the latter's near impossible. And the reason it's a safe place to be is that Apollo and Starbuck won't let anything happen to anyone, if they can help it, but miracles routinely occur when they have to look out for each other. And they're always - preternaturally - looking out for each other.
"Galactica, this is Kat," the comm channel fuzzes briefly with static before the young pilot's voice comes back, but Lee's listening to Kara rant at him on the ship-to-ship and barely notices. "All raiders destroyed."
"Roger that, Kat," Dualla responds, "Patrol status?"
"All safe and coming home."
Lee switches back to open channel and adds: "If Starbuck can get her ass back on the deck with one engine, that is."
"One's enough to have kept you from being barbeque, Apollo" she snaps back. "Add another one to the list of 'you-owe-me's'."
"Why bother," he queries, "haven't we already lost count?"
He's lost count of how many times he'd thought he'd lost her, and tries to even the score by making her lose control; it's not as easy as he thought. She doesn't hold back at all, not physically, but he's fought with her and he's flown with her: he knows restraint when he finds it.
It's only when he pins her, when their eyes lock as he fraks her slow and deep, when he brings her to the brink and stops: that's when she breaks, calls his name, begs for him. Afterwards she'll curl herself away from him, stare at the wall, and he has to fight sleepiness off and beg her back, tell her the things she pretends she doesn't need to hear.
They flirt over the ship-to-ship while on CAP, do complex maneuvers as they fly past the school ship so the kids at the viewports cheer and wave. Checkers is their third on patrol, chatting to Dee on the open comm while Apollo and Starbuck are playing.
She ribs him about how whipped he is, because he can't make it through twenty-four hours without frakking her at least once. He can't sleep unless they've done it. Lee doesn't care, lets himself get distracted; he's describing in rather intimate terms exactly what he has in mind for later, after their CAP finishes, when DRADIS erupts in a scatter of red lights.
They don't even have time to switch back to open comms before the Cylons blow Checkers out of the stars.
Lee almost doesn't make it back either. Starbuck saves his ass, again.
It had to happen one day, they suppose: Starbuck's made captain and Apollo's a major and her direct superior, and one of the other pilots (ex-Pegasus, which surprises noone) decides that the promotion was because of service in the bedroom, not the cockpit. Pointing out the captain's service record, or her time in grade, or her efforts in training new pilots, makes no difference to the frakwit, so he gets a cold shoulder in the duty locker and the rec room. It doesn't stop him filing a complaint with the X.O.
The commander himself summons the two of them, and while noone else knows what's said, or not said, everyone knows its over. When the shift is over, Starbuck doesn't show up in the wardroom, and he works the whole night with the deck crews, and the next morning he's jogging alone.
And everyone notes that they don't discuss rosters in his office anymore, and that Starbuck's bunk is empty, night after night, while Apollo lies in his with the curtains open.
He doesn't sleep.
The reasons made sense, he tells himself, at the time. Morale, discipline, preserving confidence in the leadership of the air group. Keeping their focus, avoiding distraction. Having something to hope for, to work towards. Being an example to their pilots. All the things he should have considered before he lost his grip on his frakking self control and kissed her into the door of her locker, kissed her down into the haven of her bunk, but didn't, because he didn't want to.
It was too late to take it back, and he didn't want to take it back, but they could wait, couldn't they? Do the right thing, because while he didn't care about wrong, they both had a responsibility...
She listened while he told her all these things. She even nodded. He should have realised he'd frakked up beyond repair when she didn't even hit him.
The original citation for the promotion of Lt. Thrace to Captain is posted in the ready-room; Lee notices the nuggets gathered about it before briefing.
It's signed by the X.O. He knew that, of course.
Halfway through the briefing, he notices that every single pilot - except Kara, who never showed up - is staring at him, and none of them have their usual grins.
"Why are you doing this?"
The circles under her eyes make them look bruised, but she shakes her head, laughs bitterly. The pile of blankets she's been lying on doesn't look like much of a bed. "This was your idea," she reminds him. "Yours."
It was, and he hates himself for it. "That doesn't mean you can't sleep in your own bunk, Kara."
"With you five feet away?" She shakes her head again. "I'm the screwup, remember? The one with no self-control."
He wants to point out that not touching her now is taking all the self-control he has left. He wants to say that standing in his office, gods, was it only three weeks ago? and telling her they had to stop being lovers was a bigger screw-up than anything she ever did. He wants to explain that her empty bunk, across the room there, every night, is killing him.
He can't say a word.
"Frak you," she says into the dark little cubbyhole of a room she calls an office. He doesn't need to have it spelled out to know she means Frak you for making me think we could do this, that despite everything, we could be happy.
"You think I like this?" It wasn't what he wanted, he'd told her the truth, that it wasn't over, just... postponed. "Kara, I -"
"You know, it's ironic." she interrupts. "Tigh's a lush and his wife's a manipulative whore, but they love each other. Helo's a headcase, but he loves Sharon, who's a frakkin cylon, in spite of everything. You're the great Apollo, but I guess I'm such a screw-up that you can't even love me enough to kiss off the godsdamned frat regs."
The Commander has a cot moved into her office so she doesn't sleep on the floor; Lee wishes she'd have let him do it, but it's only six weeks, and she won't even let him get her coffee.
The Commander doesn't say anything to him about it. Lee doesn't know anymore if that's approval or not.
She's back at the triad table, and there's a crowd around her, and the thrill of her cackle as she hauls in the pot is enough to light fires in his blood. He can't look away for long, shuffles papers to seem busy. Over their edge he notes Pacer (ex-Pegasus, no surprise either) puts a familiar hand on her elbow, offers her a cigarette. She shakes him off, but she's smiling, even if it looks brittle.
Lee has to leave the room; he wants to paste Pacer to the bulkhead with his fists. He wants to break his hands on the walls. He wants to tear the insignia off his collar and space it so that he doesn't have to pretend that he ever wanted this frakkin' job.
He assigns them CAP together, because she can't turn off ship-to-ship, and can't walk away, so maybe he can talk to her.
They're flying third quadrant, the rearward arc of their circle around the fleet, before she bothers to comment on his patient, hopeful explanation.
"I understand." That's all she says.
"But you don't agree."
A long pause. "Nope."
They're passing the school ship, both thinking of Checkers, even though it's Wicks who is tailing them this time.
"Kara - it's not forever, I promise. Gods, I hate waiting, too, but... now's just not the right time."
"Right" she answers, and the coincidence is the ultimate of irony: DRADIS contact. This time both of them are on the ball and all three Vipers make it home. As they approach Galactica, she switches feed to ship-to-ship again, and he realises there's a smoking, gaping scorch in the side of her cockpit.
"Out of curiosity, Apollo," she says, then swears as her ship judders in the turn, "just how much time do you think we have?"
He has occasion, a few days later, to go through some personnel records and find out who was slated for OCS; he's leafing through a file marked Revis, Andy when he realises it's Checkers.
Checkers is dead. So are about one-in-three of the people still catalogued in his file cabinet.
He starts pulling them out, all the dead ones. He is so intent that he accidently pulls Thrace, Kara out with Thomas, Neridah, and doesn't notice until he's set the stack of casualties down on his desk. And when he sees it, the wrench of nausea in his stomach is dizzying.
"How much time do you think we have?" she'd asked.
He puts Kara's file back in the drawer, closes it, and goes to find her.
She's still too angry to give in easily, too hurt, too bruised by his stubborn dedication to duty, but he's not about to waste another minute. He's grateful for the cot, because she punches him hard enough that he'd have hit the floor if it wasn't there.
He's even more grateful for it when she breaks, slumps against his chest, her fists curled in his tanks, and he can ease her down into it and hold her, kiss her hair.
She kisses him back, touches him first. Later when he slides into her, he's whispering all the things he used to save for after. And she's not holding back anymore, his ears are full of Lee! and oh, gods, and when she comes, she says I love you without waiting for him to stop, to force it. He knows she means it.
And after, he doesn't need to say anything, but he tells her he's sorry, even though the words sound more useless and superfluous than ever.
They run again in the mornings. They fly CAP together. They sleep in her office, and everybody knows.
Everybody needs to be reminded, now and then, of what they're living for. And a CAG should be a good example.