Characters: Kara (gen, backstoryish). Please forgive the 2nd person perspective, but that's how it wrote itself.
Length: 1830 words
A/N & Disclaimer: Spoilers for LDYB 1 & 2; backstory is mine own creation. Naturally, nothing else belongs to me. Title and Summary from The Tiger, by William Blake.
Imagine you're a kid again. Just a kid, nothing too special about you, your parents, your life. There seems no extraordinary amount of good things or bad thingsabout it: it has its moments of good and bad, and like any kid, you don't really know what to make of them. You have a different focus. There's things you want, and waiting an hour for them is like a lifetime, but you'll wait a year, too, and the prize will almost be worth it in the end.
So, you're a kid. You're happy, because you don't know there's any other way to live or anything that's actually wrong about it - you won't learn about 'wrong' until later. You have parents and sometimes friends, you have a world full of new and shiny things to experience. But among all of them, there's one thing that holds a special magic, something beautiful, something you long to make your own. But it's too special. Too precious, too rare. It stays on the shelf, where your momma keeps it; you can look at it for hours and imagine it in your hands, imagine the games you'd have with it, imagine the looks on the faces of the kids in the schoolyard, when they wished they had one, too. It's perfect, and it's forever just out of reach, which makes it somehow even more valuable. It's an ideal thing, a standard, a dream. But you're just a kid, so you don't think in terms like that. You just think of it as yours, someday, yours sometime in the endless series of tomorrows that stretch out in front of children.
Then one day, you wait for your chance, because the waiting is taking too long; you wait till Momma's gone and Daddy's gone and you do your homework counting the minutes to be sure that they've not forgotten something and might come back. Gran is where she always is, asleep in front of the television; the newscast is loud enough so that even if she woke, she wouldn't know anything. And you drag a stool across the kitchen and climb it, and finally you have your hands on it. You can touch it and trace the smooth lines of it, the bright prisms. It's even better than you dreamed; you might not be able to show it to the other kids, or race with it through the feathergrass, wind in your face, flying, but for a while at least, it's yours.
So you have it, for a while. Secretly, secretly, because if Momma knew, she'd reach for the belt, the uniform engraved buckle clinking. As soon as they're gone, as soon as the car's wheezy exhaust noise fades from the street, you climb the stool and take it down and it's yours again, precious few hours of imagination and reality colliding. You even sit it on your desk while you do your homework, like a reward that you can have when you're done with the stupid sums and boring questions. And it's so good to have, to be close to it, that soon it's not just when Momma and Daddy are gone that you sneak it down from its shelf. Sometimes you get up when they've gone to bed, and climb on the sink, and you carry it into your room and sleep with it tucked under the edge of the pillow, with your fingers just touching it, to be sure that it's still there and safe.
Which is why, when you wake up one morning to find it broken, ruined, because you've twisted in your sleep and rolled over it, the belting you get from Momma doesn't seem nearly punishment enough. You can't eat at your place in the kitchen for a week without having to stare at the vacancy on the shelf. And you don't need Momma to tell you, you already know it: if you'd just left it where it was, if you hadn't been greedy and bad, it'd still be there. You might never touch it, but it would still be perfect and beautiful and you could still imagine it was yours without the horrible swirl of sickness in your stomach.
You're not a kid anymore, but you haven't forgotten the lesson. You're an adult now, or people think you are; and most of the time you try and act like one. And when something else is beautiful and forbidden, even though you want it, you don't reach for it. You try and leave it where it belongs, where you can be part of it even if it's not part of you. But there's a problem: it's not an 'it' anymore. It's a 'he', and he doesn't want to be safe from you.
He doesn't let you leave him where he belongs: instead, he pursues you, his smile appearing around corners and over tables at the mess, looming out of the dimness in your favorite dive. He's not willing to simply be a face in your ready-room's sea of faces, another name on the list of students that pass through your basic flight class, year after year. He flat-out refuses to be 'Cadet Adama', at least, outside of class. He won't stay on his shelf. He says his name is Zak.
It's still forbidden, and there are problems, but you didn't go after it this time. Zak came after you. And he's not an object, not a beautiful thing that can't choose for itself. And he doesn't hit you when you screw up, doesn't leave you when things get tough, and - hardest of all to resist - he doesn't let you push him away. And the morning you wake up the way you often do - his head next to yours on the pillow and his arm curled over your ribs and his breath tracing your throat - but there's a ring on your finger, you wonder if maybe, just maybe, there could be a different ending to the story?
You're still young, people tell you. Not even thirty yet, though the last year seems to have encompassed decades. And you haven't forgotten the lesson, because no matter how long the years seem, the gods have not ceased to tempt you. It's not Zak, and it's not the glittering cut-crystal Viper miniature that you'd loved as a child; it's harder to resist than either of those.
He's like both together, Lee is, more beautiful and more deadly and perfect enough that it's hard not to look at him, hard not to stare. He's like Zak but better, he's like the Viper, too - he flies one with such skill that he might be part of his craft - but in the end, he's just as fragile. It would be so easy to lose him, gods, how close you've come, so often, to losing him! And because he's better, he's also so much worse.
You don't know why, you never could figure it, but he loves you. Like Zak, only more, maybe. Zak adored you, but he never needed you. But Lee's worse, because he's like the tiny crystal viper; he lets you leave him. He lets you ignore him. He even lets you hurt him and then puts himself back together and waits. And that's so much worse, because one time he won't be able to, won't be able to put himself back together, and you'll have broken something else you should never even have had the arrogance to touch.
So you form a plan.
There are compensations.
He might not be so beautiful or deadly, he might not complement you so perfectly, he might not have the quick, appreciative mind or the balls to hit you back, but Sammy's yours. He loves you, there wasn't any reason he shouldn't. And he can keep up with you, and doesn't make you spill out your secrets. And he might not be like flying, like the wind in your face and the feathergrass, but he doesn't need to be.
You can be content, here, with Sam at your side, because you can do what you have to do and know that Lee is right where he's supposed to be. And he's safer there, where your clumsy fingers and jagged edges won't damage him, and you think somehow that he always will be. You can dream about him there, you can imagine him, you can keep him in your secret heart and always have him, because while he's there, and you're here, you can't ever destroy him the way you destroyed the only other things you've ever really loved.
Oh, you love Sam, too. Not quite the same way, or with the same intensity, but you do. How could you not? He's wonderful and faithful and just like a kid in a lot of ways, still not caring about the consequences, still laughing straight out, uninhibited, like the Cylons never came. He can do that, somehow, despite everything, put it out of his mind like it never happened.
Maybe, if you're very lucky, you can, too.
You did what you had to do, and for a while, it seemed the Gods were appeased. You lost everything else, or gave it up, in order to make Lee want to stay away from you, but you figured it was worth it. And now, on this new world, surrounded by the fruits of humanity's instinct to surivive, you think that maybe you could be part of that. Reject your past, your present, become the future? It would please Sammy. It would please you.
It was never something you wanted - you killed the only person (cylon) who ever suggested it to you before now - but suddenly it means something. It's a new world, and a new you, and a new life would be perfect and though you're still not sure that you should want it, suddenly you do.
Around you, women swell and round up with life, and you cross your fingers and pray every time Sam kisses you like that. You even stop thinking about Lee, and what it might have been like. You take your supplements, and the doctor says there's no reason for it not to happen. You count the days, hoping, but your belly stays hard and flat and barren as space. And when the cylons come back, and Sam is dying, and you think you should want to curse the gods with all the pent-up longings you'll never be able to fill, you curse only yourself, see yourself twisted and brittle, broken into sharp-edged pieces, dangerous to touch.
You abandoned Vipers for things that crawl on the ground, you gave up everything you wanted for this lump of earth and a chance at as much happiness as you might possibly have earned. You pushed Lee away, so he wouldn't break. So now that's what you have: dust and death, because apparently that's what you deserve.
And the only thing that broke was you.