A grin broke out across Lee's face as the raptor docked in Galactica's hangar bay.
Home. He hadn't expected to see it again.
They must have been the last raptor to arrive; as soon as they docked everything blurred in the familiar distortion of an FTL jump.
The raptor doors opened and a wave of noise crashed down on them. It sounded like the whole of the fleet was celebrating in the hangar bay. They all scrambled eagerly out to join in. Lee left last, leaning on Racetrack's shoulder for support.
A familiar voice greeted him as he stepped into the hangar bay.
"I'll take him from here, Racetrack."
Lee looked up into his father's face.
"Lee," said his father, and pulled him into a hug. Lee tensed in surprise for a moment, and then he put his arms around his father and hugged him back just as fiercely.
A lump rose in his throat. He hadn't realised until this moment just how worried he'd been about his dad, or just how much he'd missed him. For a moment he had a feeling of utter security, as if he was a child again.
"Lee." His father pulled back to look at him, and Lee saw with a shock that there were tears in his eyes. Obviously his father had been just as worried about him. "It's good to see you back."
Lee found himself smiling. "It's good to be back, Dad."
His father's face sobered slightly. "Helo told me about Dee. I'm sorry." He gripped Lee's hand.
Lee squeezed back. "Thanks, Dad."
"I'll arrange a memorial service for her. Full honours," said his father gruffly. "She died fighting the enemy, after all."
Lee struggled to find his voice. "Thanks. She deserved that." All that and more.
"I see you've found each other then." A voice broke the melancholy silence. It was Laura, pushing through the crowd to stand beside them.
"Yes." Lee was relieved to see she'd made it, but he couldn't help feeling awkward, remembering their last encounter. He'd said a lot of harsh things to her. "Laura, I'm sorry-"
"It's all right," she said quickly, understanding what he was trying to say. "I'm sorry too. We'll talk about it later."
He nodded. This wasn't the time. In any case, the smile on her face gave him all the reassurance he needed that their friendship wasn't damaged permanently.
"It's good to see the Adamas back together," she said, and kissed first him on the cheek and then his father. Lee was amused to see his father flush slightly. He looked rather pleased though, and Laura's eyes sparkled.
Adama looked Lee over searchingly and spotted the bandage around his leg. "What have you done to yourself this time?" His voice was sharp with anxiety.
"It's all right," said Lee quickly. "It's not serious."
His father didn't look reassured. "We'd better get you down to life station. Cottle is busy re-establishing himself there."
"That might have to wait," said Laura, looking over her shoulder. "I think Lee has a visitor."
Lee looked in the same direction, and realised somebody was pushing through the crowd towards them. The person was moving at a surprising pace, given the packed conditions, and leaving raised voices and swearwords in their wake.
Lee's heart soared. There was only one person he knew who could push through a crowd that ruthlessly.
He'd known she would be fine.
Still, the tension in his chest didn't relax fully until he finally saw her. She was dirty and dishevelled, blood smeared across her forehead, but otherwise she looked undamaged as she barrelled through the crowd.
Then she saw him and a smile of utter relief and joy spread across her face. Lee knew his own matched it.
"Kara!" said his dad. "There you are-"
Kara ignored him. She kept on walking, pushing past him to reach Lee. She pulled Lee into a hug, arms wrapping around him, and then, before Lee quite knew what was happening, she was kissing him.
Lee was too stunned to respond, and after a moment she pulled away, looking embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" She loosened her grip around his neck.
The movement panicked Lee into action.
"Don't apologise," he said, and firmly pulled her back against him. Then he kissed her, far more thoroughly than she had kissed him. A moment later she was kissing him back with equal intensity, and everything else faded away.
It was some time before Lee realised everyone was whistling and applauding around them. He and Kara separated, flushing slightly with embarrassment.
Lee suddenly realised his father had been standing there the whole time and hesitantly sneaked a look at him. He wasn't sure what to make of his expression. He looked slightly stunned, but at least he wasn't staring at them in total horror.
When Lee looked back at Kara he decided he didn't care what his dad thought. Her smile was even wider than before, if that was possible.
"Told you I'd see you on Galactica," she said, with a slight hitch in her voice.
"Yes, you did." Lee smiled back.
Kara looked at him closely and anxiety suddenly spread across her face. "What's that?"
Frak. She'd spotted the bandage.
"Kara, it's nothing serious."
"Come on, we're going to life station," she said, in a voice that he knew better than to argue with. "Put your arm round my shoulder."
Lee did as he was told. Several people offered to help but Kara glared them away. "I've got him."
His father was looking highly amused now. "Looks like you're in good hands," he said to Lee. "I'll check in on you later. I would come along, but-"
"You've got a thousand things that need to be done," said Lee. "I can imagine. It's fine." He meant it; having commanded a battlestar himself now he knew first hand how many demands his father had on his time.
The thought of the Pegasus dimmed his happiness slightly. He'd heard on the raptor that the Pegasus had been sacrificed to destroy one of the Cylon basestars. At least most of the crew had got out in time.
Lee and Kara made slow progress across the hangar bay. It seemed as if everyone there needed to stop and greet one of them.
Lee was relieved to see many familiar faces from the resistance. Tigh, Venner – and Felix!
"You made it!" Lee was so relieved he found himself giving Felix a one-armed hug, much to the other man's surprise.
"So did you, I see," said Felix, smiling. His eyes locked with Lee's knowingly, and Lee nodded.
"Thanks for saying what you did, Felix. It helped."
"Good," said Felix. His smile broke out again. "Did you see the explosion?"
Lee laughed. "I could hardly miss it. So it all went according to plan?"
"Completely." Felix grinned. "It was very satisfying. I must blow something up again sometime."
"Gods, you've created a monster," joked Kara, and dragged Lee away.
A few steps later, Lee was immensely relieved to see Cally and Tyrol, baby safely in tow. Lee declined the offer to hold her, but he smiled down at the baby and stroked her cheek.
"Have you named her yet?" he asked Cally, remembering their conversation on the way to the town.
Cally nodded, looking grave suddenly. "I want to call her Anastasia." She paused, looking at him intently. "If that's all right with you."
"Of course it's all right with me." Lee smiled past the lump in his throat. "I'm honoured, and I think she would be too."
As they finally left the hangar bay, he realised there was one person he hadn't seen.
"Where's Hot Dog?" he asked. He'd expected the pilot to be in the centre of the crowd, bragging of his latest exploits.
Kara's arm shook slightly and when he turned to look at her she was staring down at the deck.
"He didn't make it," she said quietly.
Gods, no. Lee closed his eyes. It wasn't fair. After all Hot Dog had survived on New Caprica – the Cylon prison, the resistance raids – it seemed so cruel that he should die on the last day on the planet.
There was always a cost.
They finished the walk to life station in silence. Lee's spirits couldn't help rising at the sight of Cottle, though. He was busy snapping at his staff and complaining that his equipment had been moved, and generally having the time of his life.
He scowled blackly at the sight of Lee.
"You got yourself shot again?"
He patched Lee up with much abuse, which Kara listened to with a huge grin, and saw Lee off with the parting shot that he didn't want to see him back in life station for at least a week.
Kara hooked Lee's arm round her shoulders again.
"Kara, I can manage," he protested. His leg hurt much less now it had been properly treated, and Cottle had given him more painkillers.
"Can I at least ask where we're going?" said Lee, as she headed purposefully down the corridor.
"The doc said you should rest," said Kara. "So I'm taking you somewhere you can rest."
Lee shut up and followed her. He was beginning to feel very tired, and it was a relief to let her take charge. When they finally stepped through a hatch, it took him a minute to realise where they were.
"Aren't these Tigh's quarters?" he asked, sitting down with relief on a chair.
"No, they're my quarters," said Kara smugly. "I am still the XO until the old Man officially says otherwise. And I'm not giving these quarters up to Tigh one minute before I have to."
"I suppose you will be losing your post," said Lee slowly. "I hadn't thought. I'm sorry." He smiled suddenly. "Does that mean we'll be fighting each other for the CAG job?"
"Absolutely." Kara smiled back. "May the best woman win."
Lee chuckled. Then he caught Kara's eye, and the chuckle developed into a full-blown laugh. After a moment he found himself laughing uncontrollably, almost choking on it. Kara stared at him bewilderedly for several moments, and then gave in and joined him. The joke wasn't that funny, but they both needed the release. Lee couldn't remember the last time he had let himself go and just laughed.
When he finally controlled himself again, he saw that Kara was watching him curiously.
"What happened, Lee?" she asked simply. "I can tell something did. You're – different."
He smiled inwardly. Trust her to notice. She always saw things about him no-one else did.
"I'm not sure exactly. It's just – there was a moment, down there on the planet, when I could have just let go. Stopped trying to get to the raptor, stopped trying to live. But I didn't."
"Why?" Kara was watching him closely. Her eyes looked suspiciously bright.
"Lots of things," he said. "Everything you said, Felix said – it just all came together, and I realised you were right. I was given a second chance when Felix rescued me from that prison, and I have no right to just throw it away. Ana – Ana wouldn't have wanted that either. She never gave up herself, and she wouldn't have wanted me to."
Kara reached out and took his hand. "Took long enough for you to get that through your thick head," she muttered. She squeezed his hand tightly. "What happened to Dee wasn't your fault, you know. The Cylons killed her, not you. You have to believe that."
Lee took a deep breath. "I think maybe I'm beginning to."
Lee looked at her and smiled. "There was something else. That made me decide not to let go."
His mouth felt dry, but he pushed ahead with what he meant to say. If he was going to live, he was going to do it properly this time. No more evasions, no more denials.
"I wanted to see you again," he said. Kara's mouth trembled – just slightly, but he saw it and that gave him the courage to go on. "More than anything else. And I wanted to tell you that I need you too. I couldn't have got through this without you."
Kara's lips were definitely trembling now. She looked down, hiding her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said awkwardly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I just needed to tell you-"
"Lee." The way she said his name stopped him short. He'd never heard her sound so vulnerable before.
"There's something I need to tell you too." She took a deep breath, as if bracing herself. "When I told you before – about what happened between me and Sam – I didn't tell you the whole truth."
"It was as true as far as it went." Her voice was so quiet he could barely hear her. "Military life was a strain, but – but the real problem was that-"
"What?" Lee's heart was thumping so hard it nearly deafened him.
Kara sighed and finally looked up. She was pale, but her eyes met his with determination.
"The problem was that he wasn't you."
Lee stared at her. Something caught in his chest.
"I love you too, Lee."
"What?" His throat was so constricted he could barely get the words out. "Then why didn't you say-"
Kara's eyes sparked challengingly. "Why didn't you?"
Lee looked away from her. "I was afraid," he admitted.
Silence. Then, "So was I," said Kara in a small voice. "You mean too much to me, Lee. I was afraid I'd screw it all up and lose you."
He looked back at her, mouth twisting bitterly. "And was the alternative any better? We lost each other anyway, and just hurt other people in the process."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he said swiftly. "I'm just as much to blame. I let you push me away because I was too afraid to take a risk and try to stop you by telling you how I really felt."
A rueful smile tugged at the corner of Kara's mouth. "We really are a pair of idiots, aren't we?"
"Yes." Lee returned her smile. "But not any more."
He reached out and pulled her towards him. She slipped easily into his arms, fitting against him smoothly, as if she had always belonged there.
Well, she had. They had just both been too stubborn and too afraid to admit it.
He kissed her, and it was different to any of the kisses they had shared before. Now there was no desperation, no fear, no uncertainty – just passion and tenderness and a mutual promise.
When they broke the kiss he moved back a little so he could see her face. His eyes widened at the expression he saw there. Such pure, uncomplicated happiness - she was almost glowing.
"What are you thinking?" he said, and she sent him a mischievous smile that took his breath away.
"I'm thinking that we should make good use of these private quarters while we still have them."
Afterwards they lay tangled together in the bed, drowsy and sated. Lee smiled to himself. He knew this little bubble of peace and contentment wouldn't last. The Cylons were still after them, and there would be more hardships and danger ahead. But he knew now he could face it all, as long as Kara was at his side.
And she would be. He knew they needed to talk about the past, to get a lot of things out in the open, but the thought didn't worry him. They could do this. Now that they were finally together, he wasn't going to let anything push them apart again. Not even themselves.
He had almost drifted off to sleep when he heard her voice in his ear.
"Yes?" he mumbled, trying to keep his eyes open.
"If you ever get married again, it had better be to me," she said. "Or I'll kick your ass all the way to Earth and back again."
Lee grinned and turned his head to kiss her. "I think I can safely promise that."
There you are, SG1SamFan, an angsty story with a happy ending, as promised :-) Hope you enjoyed it.
Thanks so much to everyone who has read and reviewed this story, I really appreciate it.