Rating: PG. Mild references to adult subjects
Subject: introspection, angst
Characters: Kara PoV, Lee/Dualla, Lee & Kara
Spoilers: Basic spoilers for season 2, nothing specific or plot-based; set sometime after Scar but before LDYB.
A/N: Not mine, theirs.
Not that it's unexpected, but the clues stand out more and more to Kara, every day.
Bereft of everything else, the people of Galactica are turning to each other for reasons to live.
Her morning coffee is bitter, more bitter than usual; brewed overly-hot to maintain the brew's strength with less beans, she has to puff air at the top of the mug before each sip, and still it scalds. But she drinks it anyway, looks around the crowded mess at others doing the same.
Kara has always been profoundly aware of space, of distance and trajectory. It's a useful trait in a viper; good judgement in mental navigation is a coveted skill as pilots don't have much time to calculate their maneuvering room as a rule. But now she's aware of it on deck, between people, in a way she hadn't been before.
Galactica isn't infinite living space; it's inevitable that people bump shoulders in the mess queues, that hips brush at the sinks in the officer's head. People stand close to talk, preserving privacy by lowering both volume and distance: that kind of closeness is unremarkable. But in the mess hall this morning, she sees the subtle difference, how two people's faces might angle towards each other, so their eyes see only each other while they talk. How two people's bodies might drift closer during conversation, how voices might lower and lower further still, so that heads incline on necks towards the sound.
The mess hall seems a scatter of subtle partnerships, all these people making the most of the current quiet to be close, even in public. Restrained, but so obvious, the shared smiles, the brief hugs or touches of hand.
She sits, watching, until her coffee is cold.
Standing a watch in CIC is never her favorite duty, but today there's an unexpected distraction: she's watching Kelly, at the ops screen, try not to smile at Ensign Carruthers. The young woman's eyes keep turning his way, her environmental systems post less interesting than the way the LSO can't help grinning when he sees her. Kara bites her lip to stop her own smiles, mentally tallies the times their eyes catch.
She's at thirty-two by the time Apollo comes to relieve her. She catches thirty-three over his shoulder, and can't help but chuckle.
"What's so funny?" he asks in an undervoice, his head tilting her way.
She leans in. "Kelly and Carruthers. I'm surprised they're not setting off the radiological alarms."
He takes one look at the dark-haired ensign, flicks a glance across to Kelly, bites his lip. "I suppose you've been counting the eyefraks?"
"Thirty-six. Oops. Seven."
He laughs, bumps his elbow against hers. "See you in the gym at eighteen-hundred?"
She's perched precariously on the nose of a Viper, re-welding the panels around the cockpit, when the skitter of sparks from her tools abruptly stops showering onto the floor. She regards the welder incredulously, looks down.
Jammer's parked a trolley over the gas hose, and she's just about to yell when she understands why. The specialist is leaning down beside Selix, who has her arms to the elbow in the guts of the broken bird. The way she's smiling up at him makes Kara catch her breath.
Jammer brushes grease off her cheek.
Kara swallows the tide of envy, turns it into irritation, and starts to shout.
She's showering, letting the water trace long lines down her back, and listening to Racetrack and Checkers gossip; the two are leaning idly on the sinks, not even trying to be quiet. Most of the time, Kara tunes them out, but today -
Today they're talking about Della's new boyfriend, some tall engineer from Leonis.
Della met him while they were both in sickbay, recuperating from injuries received at the hands of the cylon boarding party.
It isn't until she's drying off, the chatterbugs long since departed, that she realises that it isn't their strengths that are drawing people together anymore. It's their fragility. People aren't dating other people because they caught each other's eye across the mess hall and liked what they saw; no, they're with people they met in sickbay, in the counsellor's office, at the funerals. They're frakking people who they met in the memorial corridor, lighting candles. They're waking up with people whose broken places seem to match their own.
It should sound wrong, but it isn't.
Life, being life, goes on however it can.
She opens the wrong hatch at the wrong moment, sees Wires on his knees in front of Kouriakis. Remembers that both men had served under Cain, on Pegasus, closes the door again.
She's a little early at the gym, amuses herself with some stretching, does some reps to loosen up. It's quiet, almost nobody around during dinner hour, and even the stragglers from the unarmed combat classes are gone. Dee comes through the hatch from the showers, her warm skin flushed with heat, and a smile that falters when she catches sight of Kara on the other side of the room. Kara raises an eyebrow.
"What's up, Dee?"
She doesn't get time to answer; Lee appears behind Dualla in the hatch with a similar disappearing grin. Dee looks at him, makes a sound that could be 'later', and disappears.
Starbuck and Apollo don't say anything as they spar. Lee apparently doesn't know where to start, and Kara doesn't think there's anything she needs to know.
She's heard most of what happened while she was on Caprica, and knows that there were some things shared between the CAG and the comms officer that she can't ever be party to. She knows that the things that bring people together can't always be so easily explained as simply 'lust' or 'love', that sometimes it's need that matters. Things broke while she was gone, and she wasn't there to fix them, to help put things back together.
She tries to be happy for Lee, knows she doesn't need to be happy for Dualla, who Kara thinks is probably the luckiest woman in the fleet right at this moment. She understands the instinct to reach for someone who needs you as much as you need them. But as Kara shakes off the sharp pain of his fist, low in her ribs, she can't help wondering if the reason Lee didn't choose her is that she's always been too scared to let him see her break.
He's been watching her over the table, frowning, waiting for her to react. His face looks just like it did that day on the hangar deck, even though this situation's the opposite of that. He seems baffled at first, then he gets angry. She could hit him, but it didn't help last time, and she doesn't think this would be any different.
It's late, and they should both be sleeping, but they stay on in the card game all the same. Her pile of winnings is starting to become obnoxious, and Wires leans back in his seat when she adds another pot to the tally, scowls.
"Gods, Starbuck. You win another round tonight and I may just have to kill you."
Lee shakes his head, tilts the last of his glass of moonshine down his throat. "Well, Wickweier, Lt. Thrace has survived a holocaust, raiders, nukes, crashing her viper, flying a Cylon ship, bullet wounds, captivity, Cain and Colonel Tigh. So somehow I don't think she'd be in any danger from you."
Everyone laughs, but she knows bitterness when she hears it.
She calls it a night, walks away from the table with full pockets and a hollowness in her chest.
Somehow she doesn't make it to the bunkroom, finds herself wandering the corridors instead. Unthinkingly, she takes a route that leads her right past the observation deck and its eager queue of young couples.
It's not hard to see the ones that are more than mere bedmates. The ones that seem intimate without even touching, the ones that don't talk as much as they just look at each other.
She remembers Dee and Lee in the gym, their half-bashful, half guilty expressions.
She remembers how Lee leaned close to her to talk, six hours ago, in the CIC.
She remembers too many instances where Lee and Kara looked like these kids in the corridor, waiting for their fifteen-minute slice of romance, only somehow they never quite got in the door.
"Sorry," the guy on duty at the door says as the line stops moving forward. "Deck's full for this quarter."
The couple at the head of the line nod. They aren't touching. Just waiting.
The couple a few slots back gives up. There are plenty of empty lockers on this deck.
She thinks about it as she undresses for bed, turns around to see Lee sitting on the edge of his bunk, sleep-ruffled and frowning.
"I'm sorry," he tells her, quietly.
She shrugs, smiles at him so he knows it's okay. "Go back to sleep, Apollo."
He smiles back.
Her coffee's bitter, too hot to drink. She's blowing on the surface again, a morning ritual, as the mess slowly fills up around her, in ones and twos and yawning groups. She's still watching, matching broken people with other broken people, glad that so many are able to make each other whole.
And when she is honest with herself, she admits it freely: she has her own broken pieces. Jagged edges. Scars. She just doesn't wear them as injuries any more. Instead they're part of the uniform, the armor, the act. And Lee might not know it, but he fills in the gaps so well she sometimes forgets they're there. Even if she were frakking someone else, even though he is, that doesn't change.
Lee walks past, his uniform pressed and shoes shiny, but he stops to squeeze her shoulder lightly, steal a mouthful of coffee and pulls a face of mock disgust at the taste.
Kara lets him leave. He isn't going far.