Chapter Six

Lee stared at the hatch as it clanged shut behind Kara. Then he let out a howl of pain and frustration and slammed his fist into it.

It didn't help.

He stared down at his bleeding knuckles and slowly walked into the bathroom to run his hand under the tap.

He looked down to see long blonde hairs in the basin and abruptly turned and walked out again, hand dripping.

Keeping his eyes carefully averted from the mess of the bed, he opened a cupboard and poured himself a glass of ambrosia. He lifted the glass and knocked it back in one swallow.

That didn't help either.

He took the glass and bottle over to the couch and sank down, feeling utterly exhausted, as if he'd gone ten rounds in the boxing ring.

He closed his eyes, but all he could see behind his lids was Kara's stricken face when he told her she wasn't worth loving.

He'd gone too far with that comment. He should never have used what little he knew about her childhood demons against her. He'd known that even as he spoke the words, but he hadn't been able to stop himself. All he'd cared about was ripping her open, hurting her as much as she'd hurt him.

I don't love you, Lee.

The pain tore at him afresh, even though he knew he shouldn't be surprised. She'd never said she loved him, or even hinted at it. He didn't know why he'd thought there was even a chance that she might. It was just – the way that she looked at him, sometimes-

He laughed harshly and poured himself another glass of ambrosia.

A few looks. Gods, he was pathetic. What were a few looks against the way she treated Anders?

She'd risked her life to go back to Caprica and save him. She'd left the fleet to set up home with him.

She'd given up her flying.

Lee knew she would never have done that for him - not that he would ever have asked her to.

But she had given it up for Anders. That proved how much she loved him more than a million words ever could.

He'd been a fool to hope otherwise. But he had. Even after she resigned and went to New Caprica, some secret part of him had refused to believe she was gone for good. Had been sure that the pull of flying, of the fleet would be too much and that she'd leave Anders and come back home. Back to him.

For a few hours last night, he'd thought she had.

He should have known better. Should have known better than to let her under his guard again, open himself up to her again. Every time he tried it she hurt him, pushed him away. And every time he picked himself up and waited for her to come back so he could try again.

No more. He'd meant it when he told her he was done. He couldn't cope with the pain any more. Anything was preferable.

Let her go back to Anders, marry him, start a new life.

He could start a new life of his own – although he wasn't quite sure how. Kara had filled up so much of his life that he wasn't quite sure what it would look like without her in it.

He was afraid it might be dim and drab. And lonely.

But then he was used to being alone. It wasn't so bad. It was better than this terrible jagged pressure in his chest, as if something was about to tear open and burst.

He'd just go back behind his walls. It might be lonely there, but it was safe too. Familiar. Maybe even comfortable, after a while.

He wouldn't risk coming out again. Not for anyone.

-----

Kara only had to wait fifteen minutes in the hangar bay while they prepared the raptor for take-off, but it seemed like fifteen hours.

She paced restlessly while she waited, eyes fixed on the hatch. Afraid every moment to see a familiar dark head appear through it.

She was fairly sure he wouldn't come. She had pushed him away as hard as she could, burnt her bridges as thoroughly as possible.

But one never knew with Lee. He was nothing if not stubborn. And if he followed her here – if he tried to persuade her to change her mind – if he touched her – she was terrified that she might fall apart and give in to him.

She was too vulnerable when it came to him. Always had been. It was why she had to leave.

-----

He didn't come. Kara breathed a sigh of relief as the raptor left Pegasus, relaxing for the first time since she had left Lee's quarters.

Gods, she was tired. She closed her eyes.

Mistake. All she could see in the darkness was Lee's devastated face.

She wished she hadn't had to hurt him, but she'd had no choice. She had to stay away from him, and the only way to make sure of that was to sever their relationship completely. Make sure that he'd never come after her. Make sure that she didn't have the option of returning.

No matter how much she was tempted.

It was just too dangerous. Love was dangerous. She had always known that.

If you loved someone too much, too intensely, you laid yourself open to them. And that only led to a world of pain.

One day you might be hugged and cherished, told how special you were; the next you might be nursing a broken heart and broken fingers.

The only way to make love safe was to keep it simple, keep it easy. Not to care too much. To find someone who wouldn't rip you apart if they left, or if they turned on you.

Okay, so it wasn't perfect. So there was always something missing. So being safe meant compromise, contentment was sometimes a little dull. You might not hit the lows, but you didn't reach the highs either.

But at least you weren't trapped, a prisoner of someone else's emotions.

At least you were free.

-----

Back on New Caprica, she headed for their tent, almost running in her hurry. She needed to see Sam, to feel his arms around her.

Much to her relief, he was outside their tent, fixing one of the ropes in place. He stood as he saw her, the mallet he was using dropping to the ground, a smile of delight breaking across his face.

"Kara!"

She went straight into his arms, drawing him close, pulling his mouth down to hers. "Sam."

The kiss was warm, tender, loving. She didn't feel as if she were catching fire, or as if she would die if he stopped touching her. That was a good thing.

"What are you doing back so early?" He drew back to look down at her, still smiling. "I wasn't expecting you for a few more days."

She shrugged. "I did all I had to do." She looked up and met his eyes. "Did all the thinking I needed."

His face started to light up. "And?"

She took a deep breath. "Yes," she said simply. "Yes, Sam, I'll marry you."

His grin was so wide she thought his face might crack. He pulled her to him, his eyes shining with joy, and kissed her long and hard.

"Are you sure?" he whispered in her ear, when they finally stopped for lack of breath.

For a moment Lee's voice rang in her ears. You will frak it up, Kara. You always do. You can't help yourself.

She took a deep breath and pushed the memory fiercely away. No. I can do this. I'll make it work. I won't let him win.

"I'm sure," she said firmly.

Sam kissed her again, and for several minutes they just stood there, wrapped around each other, breathing each other in.

Finally Sam let her go. "I think this calls for a celebration."

Kara smiled. "And I seem to remember you have a bottle of ambrosia just waiting for a special occasion. Was this what you were waiting for?"

"Could be." Sam grinned. "I must admit I still can't believe you said yes. I was afraid the great Starbuck would never let herself be tied down."

Tied down? she thought. But I'm not tied down any more. I'm free.

I've been tied to Lee for years, but now I'm free of him. I'm soaring high.

She just wasn't used yet to flying alone.

The End

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Authors Note:

I'm afraid it's not a very happy ending. However, the idea of this story was basically just 'What did Lee & Kara fall out about during the missing year?' so it was never going to end happily. I do feel bad for them, so if inspiration strikes (because at the moment I have no idea how to get them back from this) I will write a sequel sorting them out.

However, I have promised SG1SamFan that the next story (which is already in progress) will have a happy ending and I mean to stick to that :-)

Thanks very much to everyone who has reviewed this story, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so.