Title: Echoes of Atalanta
Rating: M. Sexual references, language
Disclaimer: not mine, used without permission, but the only renumeration I want is feedback.
Spoilers: mild references to information given in the miniseries and episode 1.4; nothing else.
I am the lion in his lair;
I am the fear that frightens me,
I am the desert of despair
And the nights of agony.
Night or day, whate'er befall,
I must walk that desert land,
Until I can dare to call
The lion out to lick my hand.
From: The Waste Places, by James Stephens
His hand cups the back of her skull, the nape of her neck, and it's tender; a lover's grip with fingers threaded in her hair. The warmth of his breath slides over her cheek, her jaw, subtler and more cruel than kisses. His body doesn't touch hers, yet pulls at her like gravity.
She shouldn't be here.
She reminds herself, every time, every instant of ecstasy is forbidden. It's wrong, for more reasons than she wants to recall, but right for more than she can forget. Its also everything she wants, makes breathing in and breathing out worthwhile, makes the fear and danger fade away with something altogether more perilous. She's losing all she had left to lose and gaining something that will kill her when it, too, slips away; but, with his eyes locked to hers, she can't bring herself to do more than tremble and that's equal parts anticipation and fear.
She could pull away, could do it, should do it, but there would be the instant where his hand - now so gentle on her neck - would tighten before he let her loose; the moment of possession that she knows sends weakness through her and makes her legs strengthless and limp. The moment when his face loses nothing of its passion but hardens perceptibly, oh, yes - when he wants to deny her the liberty of choice. He never does, but he wants to. She wants him to, wants to feel that traitorous heat when he drags her back against him.
But she doesn't pull away. That race is over now, and she lost.
Cylons in broken pieces drift and spin in emptiness like the discards of some giant's toybox. Vipers dart among them, circling their wounded Lieutenant's bird, holding off the other raiders that lurk, waiting. CAG's Mark VII hovers closest of all.
"Kara", he tried, his voice thick with something other than fear. "You're coming back with me."
The stick was stubborn, sluggish, the grating sensation shuddering through the body of the Viper; she could see smoke. This was worse than anything, and he wouldn't leave, wouldn't leave her, and if she didn't make him then... "No can do, Apollo. Get out of here. I don't want to see you die, okay? Just go."
"No," she heard, and his voice in her ear was gravelly. "Both of us, or neither. Keep it together. You can do this. Gods, you can do anything. Lead us home."
"I can't," she snarled, jerked the stick; it was dead in her fingers. "I can't."
"Kara," he said again, and there were tears in her eyes just hearing him, "You will. Take us home."
A missile streaked by, burst of white light. Apollo's Viper tilted crazily, spun and dodged, and the homing killer collected the shattered remains of a Raider instead, but it wasn't okay. Scorches and scars blossomed over the side of the Mark VII, and she could hear how fast he was breathing on the ship-to-ship when Galactica ordered them all home for jump. The other Vipers turned back, but his didn't. "Kara" he pleaded, ignored her begging him to get out of there, "I'm not leaving you."
She screamed, rage and denial, planted her boot in the smoking panel and wrenched at the stick, and the ship came to life, flipped drunkenly. Flying, if only barely. He didn't say anything else, just stayed at her wing as they headed, limping, for the haven of the Fleet.
By the time space and time reformed around her, she hadn't caught her breath and hadn't ceased trembling, but her temper was on-line. The only thing that stopped her from screaming at him in front of the entire landing bay was the knowledge that her throat was still tight with fear, that she couldn't have hit him with her hands shaking so badly. Instead she ran, helmet and collar fallen, clattering, sprinted off the deck with clenched fists and eyes squinted nearly shut.
Halfway down the first corridor, she realized the pounding sound wasn't her heart, but his feet. Lee was right behind her, running.
His fingers drift in her hair, tug downwards gently but with just the right amount of insistence, of cruelty; her face tilts up. His eyes are hypnotic, and she can't look away, feels his free hand go around her waist and press on the small of her back. "Hey," he says, and his voice does strange things in her belly.
"Apollo," she pants, hates herself for panting, but somehow her chest has filled up with heat and she can't breathe. "Lee," she amends, tries to grin.
"Lee," he echoes, smiles, his lips brushing her cheek. "I like hearing you say my name."
She'd say it, oh, she'd moan it, but his mouth has hers transfixed, his tongue stroking between her lips in ways that make her think of other kinds of kisses; she trembles, and his arm tightens about her hips.
"I liked hearing you gasp it" he reminds her when he pulls back, "last night. I liked seeing you shiver when you said it." His hand slips away from her hip to creep, insidious, beneath the layers of her jacket, warm against her skin, and she could do both right now, right there in the bunkroom where anyone might see.
He doesn't seem to notice, backs her up a step until she's trapped between him and the door of her locker. His other hand is tugging her head back, and his teeth are tracing the tendon of her throat, but his hips are moving slowly, their lack of urgency making her burn. She bites her lip expecting to taste blood, because his fingers are tracing her belly, sliding higher.
"Say it again," he prompts, his hips shifting and pinning her, his palm cupping the swell of her breast.
She bites harder still, but then his thumb sweeps over her nipple, and his teeth close on the base of her throat, and she capitulates. "Lee!"
She can feel his smile triumphant on her skin.
"And the mighty Starbuck will no doubt inform us all how we're doing this wrong," Tigh snarled, his face lit weirdly by the tactical displays, turning his grimace into a rough caricature of lines and teeth. Lee didn't bother to answer, merely looked at her across the backlit glass, radiating patience, or maybe resignation.
"If necessary, sir, that's exactly what I'd do." It was hard not to bite back at the Colonel; that was as close as she got without sounding overtly insubordinate. He sneered. She smiled. Ritual, as always. "As a matter of fact, I think you and Apollo have got it right. This is a good shot, Sir."
"I'm glad you recognise that," Tigh replied, started to turn away.
"Except," she intervened, lip curving only slightly, "that you could make better use of your diversionary force. The way you're doing it, the fighters are out of useful range if things don't work quite right. Look -"
Tigh bent reluctantly, his eyes followed the way her hands indicated changes, nuances. Lee watched her face, didn't look away when she glanced up at him and their eyes met, and he was smiling.
The three of them haggled over strategy for ten minutes, and when she looked up at Lee again, he had one of the Viper models in his hands, turning it over and over, thumb brushing the sweep of wing. "Apollo," she asked, and he looked up. "You're going to lead the strike team, right?"
"No," he replied, smiled at her. "You are."
Naturally, Tigh disagreed, was muttering something or other when Lee shook his head, cut the colonel off unheard. "We need our best pilot on that shot, sir. Starbuck's wasted on the diversionary team." She wanted to argue; it was his right to lead the mission. He'd proved himself, and he was senior pilot - even if it did occasionally grate to admit it. Tigh was gone, snarling under his breath about something, and Lee walked around the table, lifted a hand before she could open her mouth. "I know you will pull it off, Kara," he told her. "And I can trust you to make it back, afterwards."
There wasn't anything to say to that, so she followed him out, half a pace behind and at his shoulder, trying not to smile.
He's deft and implacable and insatiable, all at once, and his kisses drive the should not's away, replace them with will and must and now. The flight suit slips away like water under his hands, and her hands automatically reach for the buttons of his jacket. She doesn't think of consequences.
By the time his naked chest is pressed against her back and his hands are roaming her front, she's abandoned any thought, too, of halting him, halting their interaction. There isn't enough room in her mind when he does this, though sometimes, sometimes -
Zak used to hold her like this, trace his fingers down the line of her hair where it met her cheek, his breath ghosting across her ear. Zak used to kiss the line of her throat where it met her shoulder, tasted her pulse with his tongue. Zak was going to be for her what this man is, but he lost the race; he paid the price. She just never meant it to be such a final reckoning.
It's a strange sensation, memory and reality synchronised; it always sends a flush of guilty heat through her. Lee hums against her shoulder when he feels it, mistaking it for the simple response, but she can't help but feel Zak's hands along with his brother's, just for a moment.
It wouldn't be wrong to remember if it weren't for the guilt.
The hangar bay was silent, subdued, and her thoughts were tangled up in funerals, star-centered flags and goodbyes that needed to be said, and ones she knew she should say, and couldn't; with her arms buried to the elbow in the guts of Lee's Mark VII, she didn't want think about anything else. But Checkers - sweet, silly Lieutenant (j.g.) Andy Revis - was atoms in the void, gone and never coming home, another of her rooks wiped out of existence, and she could still hear his voice on the comm. "Oh, no -" he'd whispered, and it sounded like it was next to her ear. It was all she heard through the funeral, besides Elosha's familiar voice, familiar echoes. "All this has happened before..."
She shook it off, focused on replacing the section of fuel line that writhed unco-operatively in her fingers, twisting. The joins looked right, but when she switched on the feed, greasy tylium compounds oozed out at the junctions. "Frack."
The voice sent a warmth through her that seemed somehow irreverent, and she tilted her head; Lee grinned at her, flight suit loose to the waist as he bent to peer at her efforts. "It's your ship," she said after a long moment, not bothering to slide out from under the Viper. "Of course there's a problem."
"Scoot over," he frowned, lowered himself to the floor and slid in beside her. "This is a two-person job, Starbuck, need two pairs of hands for this."
"I've done them before without assistance, sir. And who on this ship has time to frack around with someone else's maintenance schedule?" Still, she didn't object when he helped her fasten the thing correctly, fingers brushing hers unnecessarily under the cover of grease and maintenance.
"Always have time to frack around with you, Kara," he said, quiet and sly, next to her ear. His thumb traced the line of her index finger, slid across her palm.
She jerked her hands out, wiping away the telltale smears. "Quit it," she snarled, but it came out more like a sob.
He grabbed her wrist, looked at her. "You went to the funeral," he said unnecessarily, understandingly. "I wish I could have been there for you."
"I'm fine," she replied, pushed out from under the bird. "It's Checkers who's dead, Lee."
"He is. And he can't hurt anymore, but you do." He was on his feet beside her. "I never told you," he went on softly when she turned her back, rummaged in the toolbox for some reason not to look at anyone, "but I think you have the toughest job of all of us, on this ship. I might have to give the orders, enforce the directives that send our pilots out there to die, but apart from you, from one or two others, I don't really know them. But you? You're their teacher, their friend. You know them better than they know each other, and you teach them so well. I lose pilots, but you lose friends, pupils."
"Eight," she tried to explain around the choke-hold of grief on her throat. "I've trained sixteen now, and half of them are gone. Two-hundred-ten, back at the academy, all gone. And Zak."
"You teach them better than you know," Lee wrapped greasy hands around her upper arms, shook her gently. "Eight are still alive, against all the odds, Kara, and turning into a hell of a bunch of pilots. No-one on this ship could have done half as much. And no-one else would have the strength to try."
His voice was insistent and honest, and full of something she didn't really deserve. Zak's name should have reminded him of that. Maybe it had, because he rubbed a hand against her bicep, leaving smears on the coverall, before he left, eyes somber, smile vanished. Suddenly, she wanted to thank him, wanted him to know how much his respect meant, but he was vanishing down the corridor, so fast he may as well have run. She was too far behind to catch him now.
He has her helpless, sheathed inside her so deeply that she can't seem to draw in air; one knee caught around his forearm, the other leg trapped beneath his weight, and she can't even feel guilt anymore, because there aren't any parallels. Zak was never like this, never possessed her so completely, made her surrender so much of herself. If there was any thought at all, it wouldn't be of Zak.
Instead there's the tug and slide of heated skin, swollen flesh; the small, drunken sounds of pleasure that escape them both; there's the electric warmth of eyes catching, striking sparks as Lee grinds against her. No room in this bed for anything but this, for the way he pauses when she tumbles into infinity, his eyes locked on her face to drink in the sight of her. For the way he growls, his eyes sliding shut when he follows her into it. For the way their hearts seem to pound, synchronised, as they collapse together in the tangle of her sheets.
Lee's nuzzling her throat, her name sighing against her skin, but Kara's mind is whirling with all the things she wants to say. This is wrong and shouldn't happen again. The consequences of discovery don't bother her so much now - not for her own sake - but the knowledge that she will almost certainly lose him, that coming this far will make the end so much more fatal...
The last time, she promises herself. She won't succumb again.
His teeth fix gently in her neck, a lion's embrace, when he slides free of her body; she shivers. Its a promise he may not let her keep.
A/N: italicised portions are flashbacks,references to prior events: the main stream of the story occurs in normal text.
Those who do not recognise the mythic theme of Atalanta: she was a huntress in Greek myth, the daughter of a king who had been rejected and exposed as a baby and was raised by a bear. Later, a devotee of Artemis, she was reclaimed by her parents and took part in several famed conflicts and perhaps even the journey of the Argo. In order to avoid marriage at her father's insistence, she decreed that she'd marry no man who could not best her in a race... and had unsuccessful suitors executed. With the help of Athena, one man bested her at last; their marriage however was a true one. Passion overtook them in the precincts of one of Zeus' temples... and to punish their disrespect, he turned them into lions.