Title: Easier Than This
Rating: M. Adult situations but not graphic.
Characters: Kara / Lee
Spoilers: none, but set S2 after Home pt2.
Disclaimer: characters are the property of R.D.Moore et al, borrowed only, but returned in working order.

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Space is cold, but they always come in hot with adrenaline. Sometimes fear, sometimes rage, sometimes emotions that are less easy to quantify, less extreme but no less intense.

It never gets any easier, Kara wants to tell her nuggets, never becomes normal despite constant repetition. There's too many explanations that the psychs and medstaff will use to bend their heads: hormones, instincts, combination of positive and negative physical response... all natural of course, nothing to worry about. And it isn't.

That doesn't stop it being a mind-frak every time, sometimes nearly terrifying in its intensity, animalistic and primitive and inescapable. You learn to treat it like everything else in this extraordinary existence: develop a routine. Something habitual, a method to wind down, slow increments of humanity creeping back in as you work your way through the process.

---

Peeling off layers of flight-suit, tanks and underwear, unselfconcious as breathing, Kara still feels the battle going on inside as she walks into the head. Her mind is blowing raiders into clouds of sparks, her fingers clenching for a control stick that's back in her viper, two corridors and a flight of stairs away. And those instincts, those hormones, brewed up with adrenaline to something like a drug, are pulsing in hot waves through the rest of her. Battle-passion-fear-relief makes it hard to catch her breath, and the heavy suit sliding off her limbs makes her lightheaded enough to gulp the steamy air.

Lee is already in the shower, and with the mood they're all in, he hasn't bothered with the door or the curtain, just getting under the water to let one sensation drown out the others. Apollo's body looks metallic under the sheen of water and the cloudy light, gilded somehow over the flow of smooth muscles and skin. And beautiful, what she can see of him, before she resolutely pulls her eyes away.

That kind of thinking does nothing to ease the rush... unless you can follow the thought with the action, on to another instinctive conclusion. But she can't, and that's never going to change.

It's habitual too, what she's doing now: cold water, quarter turn. Hot water half a turn. Square your shoulders to the wall, put both hands on the tile, above the faucets, lean in. Let the shower beat down on the back of your head, back of your neck, your shoulders. Let the water run smooth fingers over you, limpid caresses too hot to feel too good. Close your eyes, breathe through your mouth. Try not to think about anything but the water coming down.

The other cubicles are filling, dimly in a haze of sensation and vertigo and steam she hears the doors slamming, flight suit fittings clinking as the garments are tossed aside. Everyone starts here, the process of coming down. Oh, there are other ways to manage it, but they're slower, riskier. This makes more sense. Someone - she forgets his name, one of the guys she screwed in the Academy; he was a few years older - taught her this years ago. This was how he always dealt with the rush, and she's never found any better way but one.

She flexes her shoulders, rolls her neck: too soon. Pulling the tense muscles makes them ache, and she hisses a breath out between her teeth, mingled with an oath because the pain is one more sensation on a body already close to overload. Stop it, Starbuck, she scolds herself. Just get under the frakkin' water.

It's not working, because that half-glimpse of Lee - ass smooth and glistening, his muscles curving tautly across his back, the protruding blades of his shoulders channeling water down his spine - won't go away, and nor will the hum-throb of the power of a Viper around her. It's always worse when you haven't been out there for a while... and she hasn't.

It was so good to be back in a bird that Kara had forgotten what the aftermath could be like.

It's not working, but she sticks it out, gives her body the full ration of water to make sure. Lee's water shuts off mere moments before hers, and she stands there, dripping, listening to him drying off while the low hiss of ten other showers fills up the rest of the room. She can hear his feet on the wet tile. She can feel every teardrop of water tracing across her flesh.

She swears again, turns to reach for the towel: Lee is standing outside her cubicle, towel slung around his hips. She watches him watching her as she methodically dries off, wraps the blue rectangle under her arms, tucks it between her breasts. His eyes never leave her, and hers never leave his.

His jaw is clenched hard, and Kara realises the shower didn't work for him, either.

---

This is one of the other ways, and one they can safely indulge in. At least, it used to be.

Neither of them are thinking clearly enough to make this a real match, and with the heavy gloves on, not even the buzz of charged muscles can cause too much damage, not beyond a bruise or two. By mutual consent, they've forsaken headgear, and it only takes half a round for Kara to realise that was a mistake.

She has the urge to pound her fists into his face, into his frakkin' eyes that just won't leave her alone. The planes of his jaw, the angle of his cheek, too frakkin' beautiful. She can't get the image of him, towel-clad and hair slick with water and eyes just fixed on her, out of her head, and maybe if she pounds his face till it bleeds, she won't have to see that anymore.

He ducks under a left cross and straight into her uppercut, but shakes it off, blinking. His eyes are burning into her skin, and his fist takes her low in the ribs, spreading a wave of pain that vanishes almost immediately into something else, and while she gulps in air he's staring at her chest.

Frakkin' sports bra hides nothing, not even under two layers of tank. The urge to hit him in the groin and see if he responds likewise is overwhelming, and she jabs furiously, awaiting opportunity, but it never comes.

"Frak this," he says, turns away and then back to her. "Any other suggestions, Kara? Because this is getting us nowhere." She stands there, reining the impulse to hit him anyway, watching him tug loose the laces of his right glove with his teeth.

"None that you'd approve of," she answers at last, when the idea-image of those teeth on the tense knots of her nipples has faded enough to let her speak.

He drags off the other glove, steps forward and holds out a hand. "Lemme help" he offers, and on reflex she sticks out a paw. His thumb brushes across her inner wrist, and she has to lift the other glove to her face, tug the laces free like he did, because the sour, sweaty leather twine doesn't taste anything like skin.

---

They try to run it out, two full laps and they're both aching with fatigue, surely? But her mind won't turn off and her body won't quit, and Lee won't look at her when they collapse together onto the stack of crates that marks the halfway point of the third.

"So what wouldn't I approve?" he queries when they both have air again.

Kara knows he doesn't need to ask. "Frak you," she rolls her eyes. Only that's also the answer, and everything is focused down to that salient fact. Her body responds way too fast to the look on his face, and she leaps up, starts to run.

It's only a second later that she realises he's running after her, and she puts on speed. They're pounding through the deserted corridors of C-deck, but it's not like their usual run, it's a chase, in deadly earnest.

Lee's faster than her, but she has more guile, more agility; when he locks his hands in the back of her tank, she twists, ducks, the outer garment tears and comes loose in his fingers, and she's escaping back the way they came even as momentum carries him - and her ruined shirt - further on. The running's getting easier, muscles bunching and releasing and flooding with adrenaline again. More. It hadn't completely faded from combat, and now he's stirring it higher.

Kara ducks sideways into a serviceway, doubles back, but he's not far enough behind to have missed her making the turn; the narrow corridor is much harder to maneuver in and she knows if he catches her, she's trapped. Her lungs burn as she sprints for the far end, the intersection with the causeway to the starboard pod, but he's gaining. By the time she's through the open hatch, he's only a few paces behind.

And he's had enough running. His intake of breath is all the warning she gets as he flings himself out of the hatch, barrelling into her, bodies colliding with bruising force. She's heading for a sickening collision with the bulkhead opposite, but somehow he brakes, an arm coming out to reduce the impact even as the other loops around her ribs, hauls her back in.

It still jars her to the soles of her feet.

They stand there, three hands braced on the bulkhead and the fourth riding low on her belly, his breath feathering the hair at her neck where the ponytail has loosened. Their bodies connect at chest and hip and thigh, her ass tucked against his groin, and they are both shaking so badly. Kara thinks that if it weren't for the bulkhead, inches away, they'd fall.

"I shouldn't approve," Lee says, lets his head fall into the crook of her neck, and she can feel his lips on her skin when he continues. "I shouldn't, but I do."

---

They're back in the showers. Kara stumbles into a cubicle and strips, glad that the other pilots are all long since gone, to their racks or someone else's or to the rec room or the gym. She doesn't close the door, but doesn't say anything. If Lee...

If he...

He does, and she hears it click shut behind him. Bites her lip and reaches out, turns the cold water a precise quarter-turn. Turns the hot faucet the usual half. Puts her hands on the tile and turns her neck down to the spray.

Feels his hands slide down her back, like the water.

-fin-

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