Title: Fresh Wounds Amid Old Pains
Chapter 8
Rating: M for rape and torture
Disclaimer: No disrespect meant to the creators of Battlestar Galactica.
Notes: Thank you all for being patient and thank you for reading this work.

Bodies heal, Kara, and everything I do will heal eventually.

Lunchtime found Kara meeting with the male doctor. His name was Marshall Willet and he was quick to tell her that he had in no way authorized her release.

"Frankly, Captain Thrace, as far as I'm concerned you need extensive therapy. However, I'm not allowed to keep you off flight duty any longer. I was told that competent Viper pilots are desperately needed and that I would release you for duty, whether or not I deemed you ready." His expression clearly showed what he thought of that order. "Admiral Adama was quite…outspoken."

She remained silent, unable to keep the slight smirk from her lips. They had an excess of pilots, though she supposed the varying levels of competence could come into play. Who cared the reason? The reason didn't matter. She was back.

"How Sally behaved with you was regrettable." He sighed. "I know you're physically fit for duty -- Doctor Cottle weighed in on that during our consultation -- and there is ample evidence that you are dealing with that anger issue. While I am very concerned about the notes Sally made regarding possible other issues, I can do nothing for two reasons. One, her notes were non-specific due to number two, which was your refusal to speak candidly. I have nothing save speculation and as the Admiral pointed out, speculation is no reason to hold you. You are released for full duty, Captain. If in the future you should desire professional aid, I will be available to speak with you."

"Not Sally," she asked.

His stare was hard. "No. Sally is leaving Galactica this afternoon. Good day, Captain."

The meeting had taken no more than ten minutes and Kara went to grab some food. She sat with Helo. No one joined them for the late meal and they were nearly finished when she asked, "Talked to Sam lately?"

He swallowed his bite, then wiped his mouth and sat back. Helo's gaze swept the room and returned to her, a bit more guarded than normal. "Talked yesterday."

He said no more and Kara's lips tightened. She slid her tray to one side. "Did you?"

"Yup. Sure did. Guys do sometimes talk." A tiny curl of a grin tugged his lips in a fleeting movement and was gone.

Kara nodded, waiting for more, but he once again fell silent. Was he being deliberately thick-headed? An irritated sigh left her. "Someone told him, Helo. He was there when I woke up."

It wasn't news to him, she could see it on his face. "What, you think that someone was me? I was in the CIC most of the day. I saw him in the morning, since you're so interested. Before anyone even heard something happened." He tapped his cup on the table. "Besides, was Sam being there a bad thing? The man loves you, Kara. He doesn't much talk about it outright, but who looking at him can't tell?"

"Is that right?"

He nodded and pushed his chair back, standing. "That's right. Lotta love going on for you with old Sam Anders." Picking up his tray, he asked, "We still sparring later?"


"Maybe? What's this 'maybe' crap? You'd better be there. Oh, and stop by my quarters later. Sharon has some book for you that she found."

A message was waiting for her when she got back to duty. Kacey's mother wanted to see her. Kara held it, re-reading the words over and over before tossing the paper away. She didn't want to see Kacey and be reminded of how Leoben had used the girl against her. What did Julia want anyway? Kara had thought the woman would have been glad to have her away from Kacey. She thought she would have if she was Julia. Who needed the surrogate mother around to confuse the kid? It could only spell trouble.

The message went ignored, like all of the others. Some day, she'd have to face Kacey, but not yet. She wasn't ready for that yet. Kara sparred with Helo and spent time with Sharon looking at the information she'd found. There was little known about flashbacks and what she read confirmed that Sharon's advice so far had been sound. They debated the information, weighed and measured it and when Helo came in they had strayed off into lighter subjects.

Kara went to the firing range, practicing with a picture of Leoben and feeling tension slip away with each shot right in the center of his forehead. When she slept that night, there were no nightmares.

Cally was struggling, sweat dripping down her face and her teeth clenched. She let out a strangled grunting noise as she pushed the weights up. The noise quickly turned into a curse, her eyes squeezing shut for a second before she shook her head at Kara. "Don't help me, don't help me, don't help me…." she gritted out.

Kara held up her hands and raised her brows. "Go for it." She smirked. "Feel the weight, work with it, be --"

"If you tell me to 'be the weight', I swear…" With a grunt, she did another rep, "I'll kick you in the ass."

"You'll try anyway," she returned, noting the strain on Cally's face and the increasing shaking of her arms. Cally had relaxed around her to the point of being able to exchange a friendly insult now and then, usually when she was tiring from the workout and becoming irritable. Grasping the weights, Kara put them on the stand. "You're a lot stronger than you think."

Cally took the towel Kara handed her and blotted it against her face. "So are you."

The words were so soft that Kara wouldn't have been sure Cally had spoken if she hadn't seen her lips move. She crouched down, looking at her. "What's that supposed to mean," she asked with a tilt of her head.

She stretched with the towel the way Kara had shown her. "What I mean is that none of us ever know how strong we really are until we need that strength." Cally kept stretching and Kara waited for a further explanation. After a long moment, one came. "We all have strengths, weaknesses, but we also can't see our biggest strengths a lot of times. Sometimes where we think we're the weakest is where we're the strongest." She stopped stretching and shrugged a shoulder. "It was supposed to be a compliment."

"A compliment?" She couldn't help the dubious tone. It had sounded more like a cheerleader encouragement than a plain compliment.

"Frak, yeah." A tiny grin lingered on Cally's lips, but now her expression shifted. She was afraid she'd offended, Kara could see it in her eyes.

"So you think I have a strength in me I don't see?"


The idea of that -- that Cally thought her strong in ways she couldn't consider -- was…sweet. Wrong, but sweet. Kara knew exactly what her strengths were and weren't. "Thanks, I guess." She stood. "Get on out of here. We're cutting it short this morning."

Sam didn't seek her out when she was awake, though a few people made a mention of him stopping by while she slept to find out how she was. After days of this, her curiosity got the better of her. Leaving meant leaving, which meant…definitely not what Sam was doing. So what was he doing? Various possibilities swirled in her mind, but only Sam himself could enlighten her and so Kara looked for him. It took her hours to find him and once she had, she stood out of his sight a moment watching him.

He was at a table working on something, his pen scratching at the paper. As she watched, he shook his head and scratched something out, then raised his hand to his mouth, rubbing his thumb along his lower lip. Her attention lingered there.

She recalled kissing him and being at ease with doing so. Would she ever reach that place again? Could she even function as a sexual being anymore? Kara hadn't considered the possibility lately, more concerned with other parts of life, but now…. Could that part of her be healed as well? Could she forget how Leoben had assaulted her and simply…enjoy?

With a shake of her head, Kara stepped into his sightline. "You came back."

Sam looked up and there was no way Kara could miss the hope that flashed in his eyes before he covered it up. "Yeah well…. Word travels quickly. I couldn't not be there, Kara. You're still my wife." The pen was set to one side.

Stepping close, she sat on the table -- on the papers he was working on -- and swung one leg. "I thought you were filing papers. I thought you were wanting a divorce. Gods know you acted like it. You said you were going to file. You said a couple weeks or months."

His hand stretched out, fingers grazing hers and hand finally resting beside hers. His gaze held hers without a flinch or sense of guilt within. "I'd had this crazy idea you'd stop me; that you'd say something. It hurt when you actually let me walk out."

"So…. Why did you come back then?" She needed to hear his reason, to know the answer to that question. Kara drank in the sight of him, realizing that she had wanted to see him. She'd wanted to hear his voice and visually feast upon his form.

"Why are you here asking why," he countered. "I mean, it seems to me that if you honestly didn't care, then you wouldn't have come to find me. It wouldn't bother you that I was there at all and it wouldn't have bothered you that I was on that floor without a blanket. Thanks for that by the way. The floor was pretty cold after awhile. You do still care, Kara."

"I never said I didn't."

"You wanted me gone right then, so I left."

"And you can't stay away, is that it, Sammy?"

His hand grasped hers, thumb rubbing. "You're my wife. I miss you, love you…. Besides, it occurred to me that making a decision like that when we were both emotionally wrung out wasn't the brightest of ideas. We need discussion, not screaming at each other. Something that big should be a well thought out mutual decision. Then, when I heard about…" One shoulder shrugged. "I dropped everything to be there for you. "

Her hand raised, fingers sweeping across his cheekbone, then along his jaw. There was a little bit of stubble there, prickly against her fingertips. Familiar and tickling. He had dropped everything….

He turned his face into her hand, his eyes closing for a brief moment and then re-opening. "Damn, I've missed you, baby," he whispered. His glance fell to her mouth, the tip of his tongue wetting his upper lip. Sam wanted to kiss her. The desire was displayed there on his features yet he held himself back. Why? Because he was still doing what she wanted.

Did she want his kiss? Yes, she decided.

Kara wanted to kiss him. She wanted to feel him kissing her. Right then, Kara wanted that touch, only on her terms, not his. Leaning over, she pressed her lips to his for a few seconds. Drawing back a fraction, she whispered, "No hands," before again pressing her mouth to his. Sam went very still, letting her kiss how she wanted, following her order not to touch her. She kissed him slowly, tentatively, hoping he wouldn't decide to embrace her or hold her. He didn't. Kara kissed him harder, leaning closer, forcing his head back. She tore her hand from his, slid it into his hair and gripped hard, using that grip to turn his head. Sam made a noise of protest, still not touching her, so Kara relaxed her grip slightly, letting herself feel each sensation. His hair in her hand, silky and thick. The scent of soap that clung to his skin. His response that bordered on careful. The taste of coffee on his tongue and something sweet. Chocolate?

And her own control.

She was in control. Kara cupped his face with both hands and ended the kiss. With her eyes closed, she rested her forehead against his. Kara Thrace had the control here and no one else. The power of it surged through her veins in a heady rush.

"Are hands allowed now," he asked in a husky whisper.

Kara laughed. Sam's hands touched her wrists, caressing, not encircling. He touched without giving the impression of ownership she had sometimes felt with Leoben. Sam kissed the corner of her mouth, then kissed a line across her cheek

"Do you want me out of your life?" His breath was warm at her ear. "Because we can work through this. I'm willing to try. Tell you what…we'll see what happens, okay? Take things slow, get to know each other again."

"How can you still want me knowing what Leoben did?"

"What he did doesn't change how I see you. You are still the beautiful, sexy, smart, amazing woman I married. Nothing anyone does will change that. Beneath it all you are still who you were."

Kara shook her head. "No, I'm not, Sam --"

"The core of a person doesn't change, not even with what you've gone through. You're still in there somewhere, Kara. You will find yourself again."

She rested her hands on his shoulders. His hands slid up her arms to cradle her shoulders in a half embrace. Learning she was back on flight duty had eased some of the tension inside her, as had hearing that she was done with those sessions. Kara had thought parts of her life were over and that had turned out to not be the case. Could her marriage also apply? Was there really something left for them? Sam obviously seemed to think so. Could they make a go of it, like they had on New Caprica?

Or would there always be a shadow of Leoben there standing over them?

How would she know if they didn't even try? They had been happy before, so didn't it stand to reason that they could be again?

Opening her eyes, she made one more decision. "Come on, honey, let's get reacquainted."

Sam frowned. "Are you sure? Isn't it…I don't know…soon?"

Standing, she took his hand in hers. "We'll find out."

Sam was willing to try and she told him straight away that this would go her way or not at all. He accepted the ultimatum with a nod, seeming to realize her very real need to control this from start to finish, wherever they ended.

With his boots outside the door to her bunkroom, they were soon on her bed, clothing flung all over the room. Sam laid on his back, giving her the control of the moment, and Kara straddled him, leaning over him. She let a tiny part of her desire him, feeling her way back into that state. Tiny baby steps. His hands were on her bare hips….

Leoben's hands on her hips from behind, one arm snaking around her waist with lightning quickness before he tugged, jerking her back against him. His arm was as unyielding as a steel cable holding her.

She paused, shaking her head. Her eyes opened and she stared down at Sam, gaze touching upon his features, reassuring herself who was with her. When nothing more came, she again bent her head, nibbling along his neck. He groaned, squeezing her hips with gentle presses.

Leoben groaned, breath hot against her neck, his lips grazing.

Stop it, she ordered herself. Ignore it. It's not real. This is real. Sam is real. Enjoy this.

Kara began to kiss Sam with a renewed enthusiasm, trying to make new memories to force the old away. Out with the old, in with the new. Wasn't that how the saying went? Wasn't that how it should be? He took her lead and there was no doubt in her mind that he was enjoying himself. Too bad she couldn't let herself be fully in the moment because even as she tried, memories rose to the surface, razing the new memories and making themselves once more known. They didn't want to go away and let her be.

Leoben's stomach brushing hers as his weight settled onto her. His hands clasping her wrists so tightly that it felt as though he was crushing her bones. His gaze boring into hers.

She buried her face in Sam's shoulder, letting out a frustrated growl when her mind would not cooperate, instead bringing forth another image.

Wrestling with Leoben, trying to reach the knife he'd knocked from her hand. Her sprained wrist aching, yet still she fought, screaming from the pain when he deliberately twisted her injured wrist.

"Kara? What's wrong?"

His mouth on hers, demanding and hard, refusing to believe she wouldn't respond how he wanted.

"No, no, no…" She sat up. Not now, she thought. Please not now. Her hands shook and her mouth was dry. Sam's body tensed under hers and he raised up onto his elbows. "Not now. Go away," she whispered. Kara covered her face with her hands, then her forearms, shaking her head back and forth under that cover.

Herself, telling him she loved him. Reaching up and tugging his head down to hers so he wouldn't suspect the sliver of glass she had hidden on the floor beneath her sweatshirt.

Images swirled over and over before her eyes, there and yet not at the same time. Kara counted to herself, lowered her arms and looked back and forth at objects on her shelf in as random a manner as possible and while it seemed to quell the flashback for the moment, she suspected the reprieve was very temporary. How long before it came back? Too soon. She'd pushed herself too soon, hadn't she?

My punishment, Kara thought. Action and consequence. My punishment.

She needed something to ground her, but what? Squinting, she tried to remember what Sharon had shown her in that book. Kara dug her teeth into her lower lip.

"What do you need? Kara, what do I do?" A touch of panic on Sam's voice and she felt the gentle pass of his fingers along her sides and then arms. "Just tell me."

Kara tasted blood.

"Gods, you're bleeding," he whispered, fingers wiping at her chin.

Touch. Sam's touch. Use him to ground, she told herself, swinging off of him and wiping her chin with the back of her hand. "Hold me. Don't let go." Without waiting to hear his consent, she settled next to him, placing her head on his shoulder and an arm over his waist. "Don't move, or ask questions or…anything." Next, she hooked a foot around his calf.

Kara braced herself for what she knew would be coming: the horrible sensation of losing herself into the black pit of memory. Scenes, fragments at least, swirled in her mind, but she felt safe, connected to the present by Sam's calf at her foot, his body along hers, his hands at her arm and shoulder. His breath, his body…all physically in the present and therefore, so was she. Leoben could not drag her back to him. He could not hold her prisoner on Galactica as he had on New Caprica.

She wasn't losing herself in the burgeoning memory. Through the smell of that cologne Leoben liked to the sound of his voice she was in the present. The difference between now and before sent relief scurrying through her body.

This she could bear. This she could handle. There was no sense of drowning, of being unable to help herself. She felt that she even had a sort of power in it. With Sam as her grounding point -- safely wrapped in his warm embrace -- Kara let the memory come.

At first it was only olfactory and auditory. She heard the sounds of movement and voices, smelled new construction, fresh paint, air freshener, cologne. The visual came gradually, yet it didn't entirely encompass her this time. She could look and know it was only the past. It could not actively physically hurt her. Any sense of touch was just her body reacting to the strong violent memory of her captivity. Kara could keep that in the forefront of her thoughts.

Knowing all of that didn't negate the horror, the degradation, or the pain, but it did make it slightly easier to bear.

This too will pass, she thought. It will all pass eventually.

The scent of Leoben's cologne was strong, his voice becoming clearer until she was there, with him in the past.

"…and here I've put away all of your clothes."

Disbelief worked through her, mingling with her anger and the tiny touch of fear she was allowing herself to acknowledge. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. This was all a bad dream. Leoben spread open a curtained niche in the wall, revealing clothes hanging on a rod and folded on shelves. There were probably more in the drawers at the bottom. Did he really think of those clothes as hers? Did he have some full-blown delusional scenario laid out in his…circuits?

Leoben took one dress out, a slinky green thing that would mold to her every curve should she ever be insane enough to put it on "I think I got the sizes right. I was working with what I thought your measurements should be based on when we undressed you on Caprica for the hospital gown. I should have looked more carefully at your clothes then, but…hindsight. Some of these might be a little tight or loose, but let me know and I'll have them retailored for you. I don't want you uncomfortable, Kara."

She blinked. "You're frakking kidding me." He was delusional.

"Pardon?" He looked at her, gave the green dress a dubious glance and tossed it in the general direction of the straight-backed chair. "The green won't suit you, you're right. I don't know what I was thinking." He took a different dress from the closet -- a purple one.

"You don't think. You're a machine. Machines don't have brains."

"Don't be cranky, Kara." He held the dress up in her direction, squinting as though imagining her in it. "I think the purple is much better."

"I am not wearing any of these."

"Of course you will. In time."

"You can't make me." The last sounded like a petulant child and she didn't particularly care.

His glance returned to her, expression hardening for long seconds, before relaxing, his smile almost charming as he stretched his arm out and put the dress back. "Now you're being ridiculous. They're only clothes, Kara. Does it matter where they came from or who gave them to you? They're pieces of cloth, nothing more."

She shivered though the room was rather warm.

Leoben ran a hand along the shelves. "These are for everyday. Pants, shirts on the shelves and bras, panties and socks in the drawers. Everything you need. I will take care of you. I promise you that, Kara. You'll have everything you need. The dresses are for later."

"You're deluded."

This was when it had started, the detached part of her thought. This was where the physical cycle between them had begun. He had wasted no time with his 'lessons'. Lesson one right here: she would wear what he gave her.

The memory skipped forward, a good portion of their conversation missing from what she was re-experiencing.

"You can't make me wear them."

He moved closer, Kara's body tensing from the air of danger that rose higher with each step he took. "Is that a challenge?"

"It's a fact. I would rather wear the same clothes for months, mired in my own sweat and dirt, than wear anything you bring me."

She had just enough time to register movement on his part before she was sucked into unconsciousness. It was an aching unconsciousness, the dark a seething malignant spot where she could not move or breathe and when she tried, sharp jags of pain cut through her. The darkness eased gradually, the room coming back into focus slowly.

Kara was cold, body trembling. Her chest and stomach both ached as she breathed and there was a bruised sensation between her legs. Her gaze found Leoben. He was standing and it took a moment for her to realize that she was on the bed. He was dressing and whistling as he did so. She pushed herself up to a sitting position, confused to find herself naked. Where were her clothes? Her temples throbbed. What had happened? Black spots still danced in her vision. She couldn't remember, but there was only one conclusion she could draw.

He sighed. "First times are always so awkward. Next time will be better, I'm sure." His hand curved about her neck. He leaned down, placing a casual kiss on her upper cheekbone and released her. "Take your time getting re-dressed. I'm sure you'll find something you like in the closet." He waved a hand that direction. "I'm going to start dinner. Something special for our first night together. How do you like your steak?"

She stared at him, slowly drawing up her legs and hugging them to her chest.

Leoben smiled that chilling charming smile. "I prefer mine medium rare. I'll surprise you." At the door he paused, looking back at her. "I love you, Kara Thrace. We're going to be happy here."

She sat and rocked back and forth until the cold became too much for her. When she stood, she saw blood on the sheets and shook her head over and over. It didn't happen. Her stomach churned and she gagged on dry heaves, coughing. It couldn't have happened…. She showered, scrubbing until her skin felt raw, and when she went to dress, she found that the clothes she'd been wearing were all torn. They looked like an animal had been at them, shredded into strips. Each thing. Pants, shirt, underwear. The strength it took to do that to sturdy cloth…. They could not be mended. She would have to wear the clothes he'd put away for her. Whether she liked it or not.

Kara took clothes from the closet and….

She had convinced herself it had not happened. The same thing she did all of the other times. Had his first rape of her been an afterthought of the lesson once her clothes were ripped from her and unsalvageable? Once she was naked and splayed out unconscious? Or had it been planned? He had left her so bruised that it had hurt to move.

Weariness grasped her with needy fingers, enticing her to drift straight into sleep, but Kara fought it. She blinked and breathed slowly until the present was once more firm around her. Sitting, she looked down at Sam. He watched her right back, remaining still.

He swallowed, licked his lips. "You were trembling. Crying."

"I know."

"Was that what it was like that day in the shower?" He eased up to a sitting position.

"You'd have to ask Sharon, Lee or Racetrack. I don't remember." She tucked her hair behind her ears and reached for her clothes. "I want you to leave." Kara dressed quickly and when Sam was almost dressed and drawing on his shirt, she added, "For tonight. Just…tonight. I don't know if I can be your wife again, Sam. I don't know if I can be that person. Frak, for that matter I don't know if I can ever -- "

"Let's just take it slow this time around. No thinking you should be anything or that you should be ready for this or that."

Kara nodded, crossed her arms and studied him. He looked proud of himself and a tiny suspicion grew in her mind. "You've been reading."

"It's something I do to pass the time occasionally."

She snorted.

"I do sometimes read, Kara." Sam didn't look upset by the scoff though. "Look, I asked around. I put out a lot of hypothetical questions and got some answers. I want us to work and I'll do what it takes to make that happen." He tilted his head to one side and glanced askance at her. "I'm not giving up on us. No more talk of divorce. We can take it slow and I'm good with that."

She kissed him good night before he left and didn't flinch when his mouth lingered on hers. That meant progress, right?

Days passed and she once more settled into a routine, this time including Sam. He would eat dinner with her, sit in on a few card games and leave when she tired enough to go to bed, but over the hours, she began to notice that he and Lee avoided each other. When they were in close proximity of one another, they each gave the other wary glances and sometimes barely concealed snarls. At first, Kara thought it was her imagination. It soon became clear that it wasn't, however. Sam would put his arm around her the second Lee walked in. He would hold her hand and would, by his actions, let Lee know whose wife she was. Before and after Lee's presence, he seemed content to be 'Mr. Thrace'; to even laugh about being dubbed so by the pilots.

Something was brewing and Kara didn't have a clear enough idea what to head it off. She hated not knowing what was going on. Sam never mentioned Lee at all and Lee avoided her as much as possible outside of daily shifts. While he'd begun to tease her again -- and her right back -- there was still a guarded sense to their exchanges, as though Lee wasn't sure how much of himself to give.

As she observed the two, she wondered if Sam had come to realize what had happened between her and Lee those long months ago. Had he confronted Lee about it instead of confronting her? Was that the cause of the animosity rearing up? Because Sam and Lee had always seemed to get along fine until recently. She recalled Sam half hugging Lee as he'd told Lee their news that day on New Caprica.

She didn't have long to wait for an explanation. Lee was waiting the next morning in the gym, explaining that he'd sent Cally away and wanted to have a word with her alone. They settled in to a workout. Twenty minutes later, she was still waiting for him to talk.

"You want to talk, Lee, then talk."

"Okay. I forgive you, Kara."

She set the weight down, blinked several times. "You what?"

"I forgive you. Never thought I'd say that either. I'd settled in to be pissed at you, but I can't keep it going. I mean, you had something I can't even really imagine happen to you and it makes my anger pretty trivial, wouldn't you say? It changes a lot of things, doesn't it?" He kept doing bicep curls, not looking in her direction. "So I forgive you. I am choosing to let go of what happened between us."

She nodded. "Right. Sure. Choosing." Kara stood and stepped towards him. "Why now? Why this dramatic gesture all of a sudden; the big 'I forgive you' moment?"

"You know why." Lee set his weight aside and stood facing her. "You have enough to deal with without me making things harder. I want to be friends, Kara."

"Aren't we friends already?"

"We were once." His hand touched her arm, then slid away. "I'd like to be again." Lee's gaze touched on her marriage tattoo and slid away. Guilt simmered in his gaze. "I know you can't offer anything else."

"Right. Did you and Sam get into it?"

He laughed, shook his head. "Not exactly. We've developed an…understanding. Truthfully, Kara, I don't want to like Sam, but I do. He's a likeable guy, although we'll never be friends and you know why. He's your husband and that's just how it is. I won't --" He broke off, swallowed and cleared his throat. "I won't --" Lee sighed and raised his gaze back to hers. Determination tinged with sadness had replaced the guilt. "I am your friend and colleague and I will have your back when you need me to."

The pronouncement, so firm, so passionate, brought a sting of tears to her eyes and Kara blinked away the urge to let them slide free. Honorable Lee doing what he thought was right and true. She shook her head. "Lee…." What could she even say?

"What happened between us happened." His hands chafed up and down her bare arms. "It can't be undone and I won't promise not to love you, because it's pretty much impossible at this point. What I will promise is this: I will be the best friend I can be. Whatever comes and whenever it comes, I will have your back."

Meaning wrapped along the words. He meant the consequences, didn't he? He was not referring to battle, but rather to their tryst out in the wilds of New Caprica. He would shield her from the consequences if he could. She should tell him no, insist that he leave her to the consequences that were to be hers some day in the future. Instead, Kara let him hug her and embraced him in return. Burned bridges could be rebuilt, but what about those things…people…scorched around that bridge? Would those scorch marks remain forever?

So Sam and Lee had an understanding. How had that occurred? What had been said and by whom? She pondered it the rest of the day, coming to no conclusions. Sam's behavior didn't change, nor did Lee's that evening and she almost wondered what Sam would say if she asked him about Lee. The wondering remained in the back of her mind, until she and Sam were alone, sitting across from each other on her bed and playing a touch game. With their hands together, palms touching, she would slide a hand up his arm and to his face or across his chest and when she returned her hand to his, he would copy the movement. It was slow and careful and at the first instance of discomfort she could stop it quickly.

Kara slid her hand along his arm, fingers pausing on his tattoo, tracing the lines of it. "Did you talk to Lee?"

"Yes," he replied without hesitation. "I have eyes. I'm not blind. I know damn well there was something between you, though he didn't confirm or deny."

Her heart beat fast and hard in her chest and she dragged her fingertips up to his shoulder. She could see her fingers shaking and kept her attention fixed firmly there rather than look into his eyes.

"I'm not sure exactly how long, though I'm guessing it was going on while you and I were seeing each other, but before our marriage. Why before? Because I know you take vows seriously. Why during? Because I'm not stupid. The sexual tension between the two of you was so high I'm surprised you didn't spontaneously combust from it."

Her throat was desert dry. Her fingers returned to his tattoo, again tracing the design. It had been her idea to have the tattoos. "Sam--"

"Let me finish."

Kara returned her hand to his, palm against his and he began the copied touch, even slower than she had moved. Inch by slow inch, his fingers slid up her arm to her tattoo. His voice was matter-of-fact, without the steely anger she'd thought he'd have on the subject.

"I was going to surprise you in the gym this morning. We used to work out together, so I figured it'd be like old times. It'd be a return to normalcy, something familiar. Imagine my surprise when I heard Lee Adama talking instead of Cally. It took a minute to process. But I listened and I looked in and I saw his expression, Kara. Sad. Wistful. Like he knew that whatever window of opportunity was there with you was long gone and he was mourning for it. Whatever there was is over." He traced the design. "For now, at least."

Her glance finally raised to his face. His expression was peaceful.

"I knew, Kara. You don't need to pretend it didn't happen. I knew that morning that you had frakked Lee Adama behind my back. Your reactions to each other. That sick look on his face. You wear your emotions so close to the surface. You pretended so I pretended."

"It was once, Sam," she interrupted.

"It wasn't a secret, but I can accept it happened because you chose me to marry and that's got to mean something. You chose me and not him. And I chose you, knowing everything that I know."

"You don't know everything," she whispered.

"I know enough. I know you chose me to come back to. You may not love me like you love him, but you married me." He slid his arm up so that their tattoos were one design. "And I've decided that I'm not going to go away. I'm going to be here and I'm going to hold those vows we made. I'm not Leoben to imprison you, Kara. I won't force my company on you if you don't want it, but you did choose me." His free hand curved around her fingers, squeezed. "You didn't choose Lee Adama, or Leoben even. You chose me. I'm yours."

She touched his back, rested the flat of her hand there. "Why do you still want me, Sam? I'm damaged."

"I love you."

As if it was that simple. She had expected him to be furious and found acceptance instead. He was willing to wait, to step back and let her lead at her own pace. He was too good to be true and Kara wondered how long until he forgot his resolution. How soon until Sam's temper flared up and he'd had enough of Kara Thrace? He didn't ask if she loved him; didn't press her to say it. Sam was simply there, patiently waiting. Her husband.

Kara licked her lips, loosed her hand from his and touched his face, sweeping her thumb along his cheekbone. "Okay. We'll work on us."


She nodded. "Yeah, Sammy. We'll give it a go."

They would feel out their relationship. Maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn't. Maybe she could settle back into being a wife and maybe not. But they would try. She and Sam would try to patch their marriage.

Several days later, Adama invited her to have dinner with him. A private meeting between them had been a long time coming and Kara was both nervous and wary of this visit, making sure she was on time and dressed neatly. Their chit-chat was awkward, as though he too couldn't find the former tone of their relationship. That seemed to be the case with all of her relationships. None were anything close to what they had once been and some still surprised her by what they had become.

Sitting across from him and working her way through her food, Kara was struck by how weathered he appeared, more so than the last time they'd had casual time together. When had that moment been? When had they honestly had casual time? Months, she realized. It had been long months, sometime during the colonization of New Caprica.

"It's been a long time since we've talked and I've missed that. Tell me how you are, Kara."

"I'm breathing," she quipped with a grin, then cleared her throat and swallowed hard, returning her gaze to her plate and shrugging. "I'm taking it day by day."

He took a bite, chewed and swallowed. "And how are those days? Good? Rough? How've they been for you?"

"A little bit of both. Some days it's a struggle just getting out of bed and facing the day, but I do it anyway." There were a few minutes of silence as they ate. Several times, Kara opened her mouth to speak and closed it again without saying a word. "May I ask…" she began, then trailed off and couldn't figure out how to end the sentence. She was still intensely curious about why he'd put her back on flight duty. "Flight duty?"

He took his glasses off, rubbed wearily at his eyes and put the glasses back on before steepling his fingers together and resting his elbows on the table. "My decision regarding your status?"

"Yeah." Kara set her fork down. "I've been wondering about that. I never had a final session, so how could I have passed?"

A sigh escaped his lips and he shook his head. "No, you may not ask. Not today. Today I don't feel like answering that question."

"I could be a danger to others."

He chuckled. "To Cylons, Kara, not to us." He gestured to her plate. "Food's best hot."

Kara excused herself soon after dinner, claiming fatigue, but the truth was that she was too uncomfortable. She no longer felt at ease with him and his decision still baffled her. What had he seen or heard that gave him the certainty he had? Why were they all so sure she wasn't going to gun them all down? Some days she felt like doing just that. Some days her rage at Leoben spilled over and she had to take time by herself to work out the anger. She took her anger to the gym and let it out there. She focused on preparing herself for their future meeting, driving herself, trying to separate the rest of the crew from her temper.

And some days Kara didn't think she'd ever feel anything right again. Every emotion was screwed up and she couldn't trust anyone. Love and hate got mixed up and she didn't know if she was crying from sadness or anger. Some days she had to take seven or eight showers to feel clean and other days she could go without. Her nightmares and flashbacks came in cycles and she could recognize that and begin to accept it. She could recognize that taking care of her body and mind meant good nutrition, good exercise and knowing her own limits. When she pushed herself, her mind pushed back. She could accept that she was going to have flashbacks and nightmares. They were going to come and maybe someday they would even pass. For now though, they were a part of her days and nights.

Kara wondered if she'd miss them when they were gone.

Somewhere along the line, Kara stopped lurching from one thought of Leoben to the next. She could carry on a conversation without imagining him behind her or remembering him in some way. Leoben was no longer in every thought of every day. Not that she never had thoughts of him, for she did. They had lessened though. He was not the singular part of her day.

She was moving on.

She had been the best once and would be again. She'd been somewhat normal once, easy to laugh, joke and socialize. She would be all of that again. It would take time and effort to recover each piece of her that still lay broken around her feet and it would be a painful, gut-wrenching hell to do so, but the process was begun. Kara had jumped the first few hurdles in that course and somewhere there would be an end. Somehow, someway, someday.

The lesson is not over until I tell you it is.

Leoben had won a round in that dance between them, but that was all. Kara was taking back her soul, her life. Leoben had not defeated her. Whatever his real intentions, he had only made her stronger. Each piece she returned to herself was hard-won and added strength to her. With every day that passed, she had a purpose and she healed.

I do love you….The complete release of that pain into the sea of the past…

She went to see Kacey, facing the girl, acknowledging how Leoben had used them both. Acknowledging the pain of it; the hurt and betrayal. She hugged Kacey and could let her go. She could talk to Julia and see that the woman thought she had been good for Kacey during those days on New Caprica. And Kara knew she could walk away and release that time to memory. She could regain one more piece of herself.

The pain of the moment is gone.

There were ups and downs and she was far from healed, but Kara had learned Leoben's lesson on pain. Pain was a process like anything else and no matter how hard it was to go through, it would eventually end. It, too, would pass. Could he take his own advice when they met again?

She looked forward to finding out.

Giving Kacey one last hug, she got up and returned to duty.

Lesson over, Kara Thrace. Class dismissed.

The end.