SECOND CHANCES

This is a Kara/Helo fic which will explore the burgeoning relationship between the two of them. Other characters and possible pairings will appear as well, but the main focus is on them. Dedicated to latteaddict who loves Kara/Helo as much as I do. :)

It was as if she'd never left. Almost.

In a way it was almost like going back in time - Pegasus was gone, most of Galactica's old crew was back to work, and the old man had shaved off his moustache. A definite improvement as far as Kara was concerned. Tigh was back as XO though not quite up to full speed yet after the trials the cylons put him through. The Chief and Cally were back to work too, with a civilian helping babysit when needed, and Lee had taken back his old CAG's position. Adama had taken her aside when she'd come back and asked if she wanted to be Lee's assistant but she'd declined, saying she wanted Helo to have a chance to shine. He'd been Galactica's acting XO while Tigh was gone but his heart had always been in his Raptor.

It wasn't the real reason she didn't want to work with Lee, but it had sounded good enough to fool him. Or so she thought. The look in his eyes as he nodded silently told her he knew there was more to it than that but that he had no intention of prying. It was one of the things she respected most about him - his integrity. Something she wished Lee would have inherited more of. At first glance he seemed to exude it, but after getting to know him intimately, she realized it was all just a mask. At least where she was concerned anyway.

No, everything seemed the same as it used to be back in the good old days (since when did the 'good old days' become the first months of retreat from the cylons?), but something was definitely very different. There was a different atmosphere than there had been before. A tenseness, a melancholy that hadn't been there, despite the fact that most people had lost everyone dear to them and were running for their lives. It seemed as if the level of despair now had risen just that much higher since the latest cylon attack on the planet, but people tried to hide it and appear cheerful.

Kara herself was guilty of that as well. She did her job as well as she could and acted though she was happy as could be to be back, but underneath something else had taken root. She tried to avoid Lee as much as possible, knowing how things had been left between them. He could hold a grudge - none better - and she knew he held a big one against her for leaving. She tried throwing herself into work with a passion, hoping to forget about him, and the newest scars that had been inflicted on her body and soul on New Caprica. Not all of them by the cylons either.

"Starbuck." Lee's voice, disapproving as always, interrupted her musings.

She turned her head to face him, eyebrows raised questioningly.

"I need you to look over this list of possible new recruits." He tossed a folder at her, none too carefully.

"I'd love to sir, but I've still got test reports to write up for today's prelims," she answered, a tad acidly.

"When you're done those then," he said, staring flatly at her, as if daring her to refuse.

"It's already after midnight and I have CAP at 0600. Do I get to sleep somewhere in there?"

"If you have time."

"Well, don't blame me if I screw up tomorrow due to lack of sleep."

Lee snorted derisively. "Boy have you gone soft. The Starbuck I used to know would never have complained about no sleep."

She was out of her chair in a flash, standing mere inches from his face. Her fist was balled and her muscles were taut and quivering, ready to strike.

"You going to hit me?" he taunted softly.

Her eyes narrowed. "I'd love to," she bit out nastily. "Hitting superior assholes is my specialty after all."

"Go ahead then." He smiled but it was entirely without mirth. His eyes were hard as steel as he stared her down.

Her mouth tightened as she visibly restrained herself. Taking a deep breath she backed off, grabbed several folders off the table and stalked out of the room, not looking back.

Lee exhaled slowly. He hadn't expected her to back down. That wasn't her style.

"You handled that well."

Lee's head swung around to find the source of the voice.

Helo stood in the opposite hatchway, leaning against the opening on one hip.

Lee looked annoyed."Frak off Helo. It's none of your business."

"Anything that involves Kara is my business," he said firmly but quietly, advancing towards Lee.

Lee's eyes flashed angrily. "You her personal bodyguard now or what?"

Helo chuckled. "No, just a concerned friend."

"Well maybe you shouldn't be poking your nose into something that's not your concern."

Helo soldiered on as if Lee hadn't said a word. "You're pushing her too hard."

Lee blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"You're pushing her too hard," he repeated.

"Is that your professional opinion Lieutenant?" Lee demanded angrily, "or are you going easy on her because she's your friend?"

Helo's eyes narrowed. "Kara pushes herself hard enough - always has - she doesn't need you loading a ton of responsibilities on her. Especially now."

Lee stepped forward a few strides and met Helo's angry gaze.

"She's a soldier Lieutenant. If she wants to be a part of this ship's crew, she's going to have to pull her weight and not be mollycoddled by anyone."

"Do you not understand the pain she's going through right now?" Helo asked, a catch in his voice as his heart constricted, just thinking about her. "What happened on New Caprica ..."

"I know what happened," Lee stated, cutting him off.

"Do you? Do you have any idea now much this is hurting her?"

Lee snorted. " Kara's used to pain. Shouldn't come as anything new to her. Besides, she brought it on herself. No one forced her to go to that damned planet."

Lee knew he was sounding horribly bitter and perhaps even a little jealous, but he couldn't help himself. Even he didn't understand the feelings he got every time he looked at Kara - thought of her even. He'd been angry with her before, plenty of times, but this was different. There was anger for sure, but also sorrow, hurt and something he wasn't even sure he could put a name to. It caused him to feel a knot at the pit of his stomach though, every time he thought of her, and he couldn't help but lash out.

Helo looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "Have you no sympathy man? Don't you know what it feels like to be betrayed by someone you care about?" His arms waved about angrily.

Lee closed the distance between them. He'd never realized the other man was so much taller than he, but he wasn't one to be intimidated.

"Don't talk to me about betrayal," he hissed. "Kara has betrayed us on several occasions. It's time she learned what it feels like."

The two men glared at each other for several minutes.

Helo sighed finally, breaking the spell. "I thought you were her friend. Friends forgive and forget. I guess I was wrong." He turned and walked away.

Lee took an involuntary step after him and opened his mouth as if to call him back, but stopped himself. It was late and he had work to do.

ooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Helo shook his head sadly as he walked back to the bunkroom. Obviously Apollo still held a grudge against Kara for stealing off to Caprica, but he didn't understand how he could still be upset with her after all this time. Considering how few survivors there were left, it made no sense to be holding grudges against each other now.

He pushed open the hatch slowly, trying not to wake anyone. Most of the pilots would be sleeping by now and living in such close quarters forced them to be courteous and not intrude whenever possible.

He sat down on the bunk beside Kara. Her reading light was on and she was feverishly writing.

"Kara," he whispered.

"I'm busy Karl." She pushed aside one paper and pulled another from her stack.

He put a hand over hers and took her pen. "Kara, stop."

She gave him an annoyed glance. "I've got work to do. Give me back my pen."

"It's almost 1am Kara, you need to get some sleep."

"I don't have time to sleep." She sighed wearily, rubbing her eyes.

Helo looked intently at her. "You need to get some rest." His tone was gentle and tears began to prick at the backs of her eyes.

"I have things that need to get done before morning shift," she whispered, blinking.

"Forget them. Do them after CAP tomorrow."

" But Apollo will ..."

He laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. "You let me deal with Apollo."

She cocked a wary eyebrow at him.

"It's my job after all." He smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek.

"Better you than me," she managed to whisper before tears threatened to overwhelm her.

"Get some rest." Helo got up and headed to his locker, stripping off his jacket and tanks in one smooth move. "Goodnight Kara."

"Goodnight," she whispered, eyes involuntarily following his movements. She forced herself out of her bunk, stripped down to underwear and bra and climbed under the covers. She looked anxiously over at him as he closed his locker and he reassured her with a smile, coming over to crawl in beside her. He pulled the blanket over them both and she closed her eyes, a small smile creeping onto her face. For the first time in days she fell into an untroubled sleep.

ooooooooooooooooooooooo

Kara began to get the familiar knot in her stomach as she readied herself for landing. She'd had a decent sleep, albeit too short, and hadn't run into Lee before taking off at 0600 but now that it was almost 10 she knew he'd be at work - likely waiting in the hangar bay to supervise the CAP changeover.

Listening to Helo the night before had seemed like a good idea at the time but she wasn't sure it was worth it if she was going to have to face Lee's wrath for having not completed her work.

She took a deep breath and throttled down, knowing she only had another two minutes of grace before facing the music.

ooooooooooooooooooooooo

Lee stood waiting. Waiting for Kara to arrive back from CAP. He'd spent a lot of time thinking about what Helo had said to him. I thought you were her friend. Friends forgive and forget. He realized that perhaps holding a grudge was a stupid idea. Yes, she'd ripped out his heart, torn it in two, shredded it and stomped on the pieces but damn it all, he just couldn't seem to hate her, no matter how hard he tried. He wasn't sure what he felt for her was love though. He'd been in love with her before - he was now able to admit that to himself, but he'd realized that the 'happily ever after' he'd sought wasn't in the cards for them. She'd made that only too clear when she'd chosen another man over him. One who hadn't been worthy of her, in his opinion, but he'd kept that opinion to himself and moved on, finding himself another woman who was as different from her as night to day.

Considering how few people there were left in the human race - especially after the last bloodbath, disguised as 'occupation of New Caprica', holding grudges against the few friends you had left really didn't make sense. He'd almost lost his father without ever making things right that way and he didn't want to make that mistake with Kara, should the cylons find them again and something happen to one of them.

oooooooooooooooooooooo

She slid into a smooth stop in place and immediately powered down and opened her canopy, waiting for the techs to bring the staircase. She hopped out nimbly and began to descend, stopping suddenly on the bottom step as she caught sight of Lee staring at her.

She gulped and grabbed the flight checklist, averting her eyes from his penetrating stare.

"Thanks guys," she murmured to the techs, throwing them a quick smile as she popped her helmet under her arm and walked briskly past Lee.

"Captain Thrace."

She stopped and stiffened. Here it comes ...

"Yes sir?"

"May I see you in my office?"

"Now?"

"You have a better time in mind?"

She looked down. "I've got reports to finish and an evaluation to write that were due about four hours ago."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

She looked up briefly and met his eyes, surprised by the lack of aggression and anger in his voice. Ever since her return to Galactica three weeks previously, she'd been used to the barely disguised hostility he spoke with whenever he addressed her.

"Lead on."

They walked in silence, discomfort growing with every stride. Kara sat in the guest chair across the desk and waited.

Lee shuffled papers and clear his throat nervously.

"About those reports," he began, eyes finally resting on hers.

"I'll have them done as soon as possible. Helo gave me permission to put them off ..." she explained.

"It's okay. I know. As long as I get them by the end of the day."

Kara's eyes widened as she stared into his. Her forehead wrinkled. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure ... I ... um ... I've been giving you too much work lately, and I'm sorry." His cheeks burned. "You deserve a little R 'n' R time."

She was flabbergasted. Had he lost his mind?

"I um ... I ... don't know ... um, I mean, thank you," she said bashfully. "Things have been difficult lately ... you know, readjusting to being here ... and I'm not used to ... being alone." Her eyes dropped to the desk as the lashes began to moisten with tears.

"Is that why you're sharing a bed with Helo?" He could have smacked himself after he uttered the words. As usual his jealousy had reared it's ugly head and pushed empathy and tolerance aside.

Her head flew up and she stared at him defiantly. "Just because Karl and I share a bunk doesn't mean we're sleeping together."

He looked at her as though she were about three years old. "Actually you are ... sleeping together that is."

Kara sighed in frustration. "Okay, we're sleeping together. That doesn't mean we're frakking."

"You expect me to believe that? Come on Kara, I'm not that innocent. When a man and a woman share a bed it's obvious what they're up to."

"I don't expect you to understand," she bit out angrily. "Sometimes people just need someone to be with."

"And that being has to happen in bed?" he asked, typical sarcasm present.

She stood up quickly, knocking over her chair. "Frak you Lee! I'm tired of trying to make you understand." She threw up her arms in disgust. "Think whatever you want." She spun round and walked out, slamming the hatch shut behind her.

Lee sighed. He'd frakked up with her again. As usual.

TBC