The Rebirth of Apollo

Teen, 'cause Pilots swear.

Spoilers: Set during Exodus II, 3x03 (or 04 depending on how you're counting)

A/N: Thanks to LF and ScifiJoan for reading this through.

Sometimes he was amazed that he'd been able to fool those around him so easily. Maybe not fool so much as misdirect, but either way he'd succeeded in creating a persona that no one bothered to look behind any more. His father called him lazy and wondered if it was the stress of the promotion. His wife told him it was because he was a solider without a war and wondered if maybe he wasn't a little nuts.

He didn't have the heart to tell them that it had just been easier this way. It wasn't the added responsibility that stressed him out. It wasn't the loss of the Cylon threat that had disheartened him.

It was the loss of the one person who had always cut through his crap, who had challenged him without belittling him, who had understood him. It was that loss that had broken him. It was the stress of not knowing if she needed him that kept him reaching for food in an attempt to fill the gnawing ache in his abdomen.

She had made it very clear to him that she no longer needed or wanted anything from him. In fact, she had made it clear to Galactica's entire hanger bay. And then she had disappeared from his life.

He had been on board for a meeting with the Admiral about how people and resources would be distributed during and after the settlement effort….

Lee stood and shook his father's hand, not entirely pleased with their plan, but resigned. The new President wanted the fleet to be settled as quickly as possible and he didn't seem to care what sort of strain that put on the people.

"Thank you for coming over Commander. I think we've made a lot of progress with this." Bill Adama gestured to the stack of files on his desk. "I'll let the President know about our plans and contact you if anything changes."

Lee smiled as his father couldn't prevent the involuntary grimace that marred his features whenever he spoke of Gaius Baltar. Knowing that the formal part of their meeting was over, Lee replied teasingly, "Better you than me."

Bill smiled briefly and then his expression turned unexpectedly serious, even more so than it had been while they'd discussed Fleet business. As the silence stretched on, Lee became increasingly nervous. "Dad? What's wrong? You haven't been to see Cottle recently, have you?" There was still no response, so he tried for humor, "Has Ellen been trying to seduce you again?"

Bill sighed. "You really don't know, do you? She hasn't told you."

"She?" Lee wracked his mind, trying to decide which woman in their lives would purposefully avoid telling him something that was obviously important enough that his father had to know. It didn't take him very long as there was only one he hadn't spoken to recently.

"Kara." It was a statement, not a question.

"What has she done this time?" he asked. Not that it was really any of his business anymore. She had Anders; he had Dee. They didn't even serve on the same ship.

"There's a reason her name wasn't on any of the lists we went over," Bill replied.

"I assumed you wanted to keep her here with you."

"I do, but that's neither here nor there, son. She's resigned her commission."

"WHAT?!" Lee's shout of surprise and anger echoed off the metal bulkheads around them.

"She's giving it up to marry Anders and move down to the planet." Bill kept talking through Lee's shock as if this wasn't the biggest blow to his family since Zak's death.

Lee forced himself to keep from pacing, his hands tightening convulsively into fists. "Where is she?" he ground out through compressed lips.

Bill looked at his watch. "She'll be finishing up her last CAP about now."

Lee flew for the hatch. His father's voice had him pausing halfway through, "Going after her now, like this… it won't solve anything."

"I can't let her do this to herself Dad." Lee was halfway down the hall before the old man's advice really sank in. He considered it for a few seconds before dismissing that course of action. If this was her last CAP she was leaving too soon for him to wait. He'd already waited too long.

Lee stormed on to the hanger deck to the shout of a random tech announcing his arrival. All movement paused briefly and he spotted Kara's blonde hair as she, the only thing moving, scrambled out of her Viper, most of the way across the bay from him. He strode across the deck and rounded the Viper as she scurried for the locker room.

"Lt. Thrace! Halt! That is an order!" He hated pulling rank on her but it was obvious that she was intent on escaping him, and his mind was made up.

She stopped just by a hatch, turning to face him. In his anger, he came in close, invading her personal space, and backing her into the bulkhead. When she stubbornly refused to meet his eyes, choosing instead to stare over his shoulder, he lifted one hand to her chin and tilted her face up to his. Some of his anger drained away at the wariness, fear, and pain in her eyes, but not enough to stop him completely.

"Were you just going to disappear without telling me? Did you think I wouldn't notice? Wouldn't care?" Lee shut his mouth with a snap. That question had revealed entirely too much, and taken the conversation in a direction he'd wanted to avoid. He wanted to be angry with her. It was easier to keep himself from begging when he was on the attack. But she didn't speak, didn't move, just pleaded with wide frightened eyes. Kara's eyes, not Starbuck's. "Gods Kara."

He was too close to her. The anger riding him was quickly shifting into an entirely different type of energy as he pressed her into unyielding metal. "Don't go."

The words were out before he could stop them. He dropped his forehead to her and braced his hands on the wall on either side of her head. For a moment he could feel her melting beneath him. She whispered his name and moved her lips to find his. For a split second, as he felt the press of her against his mouth, his world was perfect and hope flared in him. The she stiffened and her hands on his shoulders shoved him away instead of pulling him closer. "No, Lee, stop!"

"Kara?" His voice was soft, confused. Most of the anger had fled with the kiss she initiated.

She slipped under his arm, but didn't go far, facing him, her side to the bulkhead so he couldn't corner her, the hatch behind her. "I am not going to let you do this to me. Not again."

"Do what Kara?"

"Screw with me like this." She waved her hand between them. "Tell me what a 'frak-up' I am, ignore me for months, and then pull me back in only to drop me again. The only time you're ever interested, Lee, is when I'm with someone else. This time I've found someone who loves me, respects me…understands me. I am NOT going to give that up because you suddenly decide to pay attention to me again."

The anger was back. Directed at her, at himself, at the entire situation. It goaded him on. "He understands you? Does he Kara? I can't believe you've managed to convince yourself of that shit. He's taking Starbuck out of the sky. And Kara, how can he understand you when he knows nothing about you? Or have you managed to tell him what you couldn't even bring yourself to tell Zak? Does he know about your mother?"

Kara went ghostly white at Lee's last question. It was a low blow, one of the few things guaranteed to stop her. And her obvious reaction was almost enough to stop him. Almost. He stepped forward, voice low, "Does Anders know who your father was or what happened to you after he left?" He pulled one of Kara's hands from her side and smoothed his thumb over her fingers. "Doe he know that despite all that, you still ache to play every piano you see? He will never know you, all of you, the way I do Kara." Lee dropped her hand and took a step back. "But maybe he knows you better. After all, I never would have pegged you for a coward Starbuck."

He wasn't sure if it was the word coward, or the sudden use of her call sign that finally caused her to snap, but one hand flew out to slap him across the face, followed quickly by a fist to the other side of his jaw before she jerked back. A part of him was satisfied and aroused that her anger had finally risen to match his.

"Frak you Lee! You have no rights here, no claim. You missed your chances." She offered him a mocking salute. "Thank you for trying to save me from myself yet again, Sir. But this is not just another Starbuck screw-up, and I don't need you to bail me out. In fact, I don't need or want anything from you, at all, ever again. Good bye Commander Apollo."

She stormed off through the hatch.

A hatch that probably would have slammed behind her had it been a door, he recalled. He had ignored the staring specialists and pilots and promptly commandeered a Raptor to fly himself back to Pegasus. He'd spent a few hours taking his anger out on the punching bag in the gym before burning off the last of his frustration by frakking Dee on his desk.

Lee crossed his office to the desk and ran his hand lightly over the surface, remembering. The fact that the encounter with Dee had not been the first of the last time he had pictured Kara, was one thing that he never planned on telling his wife.

After Kara had kicked him out of her life it had become easier to plow through the paper work of command than to go to the gym where he would be surrounded by memories of her. Easier to dull the tearing pain in his stomach with food than swallowed pride. And that had been before he'd abandoned her, and the others, to the Cylons.

The recent re-establishment of contact with New Caprica had been his wakeup call. Not the contact itself, but the fact that once again Kara's name was nowhere to be found in any the information he'd seen. It had become clear to him as they planned the rescue mission that somehow the Cylons had gotten their hands on her.

And now his father expected him to just sit by and baby sit the Fleet while other people, the people who had already failed to protect Kara, saved humanity. Lee knew he had no one to blame for his orders but himself. The Admiral had taken his comment about protecting the few civilians who had jumped with them during the Cylon landing as him volunteering for the easy way out. And now, looking back on it, even his wife's earlier speech to him chaffed. He had expected her to urge him to help his father with this crazy plan. He had been expecting her to have found some insane way for them to pull this off. He had, he realized, been expecting her to think like Kara.

'Frak that,' he thought and slammed both fists down on the desk. She wasn't here anymore. But it was as if there was a small voice in the back of his mind, taunting him, 'Come on Apollo. What's the matter? Afraid? Doesn't matter. You'll do what's necessary.'

Lee took a deep breath and let his memories of Starbuck/Kara out. Her shy smile the first time they'd met, her swagger, the light in her eyes as she planned a crazy prank, the strength of her voice as she outlined what should have been a suicide mission, he allowed them to wash over them. He pulled them tight around him. He was going to do this for her. He was going to do everything in his power to make sure his people made it off the planet alive, including her. And if her wanna-be-war-hero husband didn't manage to bring her back, then by the Gods, he was going to kill the frakker and find a way to go get her himself.

"All hands prepare for FTL!" The ship wide broadcast called him to action. Lee straightened his jacket, squared his shoulders and headed for CIC. Apollo had a crew to let in on his new plan.