Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: 13ish Title: Stumble to a Crawl Author: ALC Punk!
Genre: Angst Pairings (if any): Kara/Zak, Kara/mat Summary: It wasn't running to forget.
Length: 1,000+

It wasn't running to forget.

The movement of feet on the deck, the muscles straining and flexing in calves and thighs, the sweat dripping down her back and soaking her throat, drops sliding right into her eyes. The arms moving back and forth, opposite arms swinging up and down, fingers clenched into fists. Breath catching at the back of her throat as she pushed until she panted, pushed until the muscles in her legs ached, until her hair was thick with sweat.

Didn't stop until she couldn't feel her feet, the burn in her calves not even pain anymore.

Too many stairs. Clattering up and down and around, until she'd lost count of the number of steps she'd taken.

Finally ending up where she knew she would, Kara threw herself down on the mats in the deserted gym and stretched herself out, flattening her back, then pulling her legs up and curling. Protesting muscles made her relax, finally.

Pulse still pounding in her veins, she stared up at the ceiling, counted the pits and lines that the last painter hadn't quite covered up. Sloppy job. Sloppy ship. Sloppy Starbuck.

Not that it mattered. Galactica would never be the Fleet's Finest again. Too old, for one thing. And her commander, oh, everyone knew about her commander. Old man who'd used his marriage connections to get his commission and posting, then had turned around and gotten a drunkard hired on as his XO. Not to mention the frak-up favorite pilot who he let get away with anything.

Oh, yeah. Galactica wasn't gonna be one for the record books.

"You'll get stiff." Speak of the devil.

Kara turned her head sideways and looked up at her commander. "Sir. Maybe I want to be stiff."

He snorted and moved to the bin, pulling out two sets of gloves. After throwing one pair at her, he began pulling the other on. "That's just an excuse for laziness, Starbuck."

Very true. Kara rolled over and pushed up onto her knees. She stopped there and pulled the gloves on, letting her body get used to the idea of upward movement again. "Maybe I like being lazy."

"That idea is belied by every step you take," he replied, then offered her a hand.

Hooking her gloved fist around his elbow, she let him do the same and haul her to her feet. "Maybe it's a lie, sir."

"Maybe." His tone was equitable. "On your guard, Lieutenant."

Kara carelessly put her fists up, waiting and watching as he watched her.

"Sloppy." He noted before lashing out.

Their gloves collided, and Kara stepped back to avoid his second blow, then stepped back to swing at him with one of her own.

It missed.

"That all you got, Starbuck?"

"No, sir," she fought for concentration and drove in, aiming for his jaw. At the last moment, he blocked and came in under her guard, fist catching her in the gut.

She whuffed and doubled-up slightly.

"C'mon, Kara, you're makin' me look lax here."

Reacting before she was ready, she jumped forward, catching him by surprise and getting a glove onto his shoulder before he recovered and laid her out onto the mat with a one-two combination that left the room spinning and her breath coming faster.

He dropped his gloved hand to help her back to her feet, then circled around, watching her again.

The sparring continued. Adama chased her from one end of the mat to the other, Kara almost spent more time ducking and on the ground than she did landing her own punches. But she was improving. Two months since they'd started sparring, and she could at least block and make her own forays, now.

It still didn't change the fact that she was bruised and aching, her muscles shaking before she hit the mat one last time.

"Enough." Adama stepped back and looked at her.

The sweat soaked her skin, her breathing was shallow and quicker than it should have been. She could feel the blood racing through her veins behind her eyes.

"Right," she finally managed, just letting herself sink into the mat. Enjoying the abrasive feel of the canvas against her sweat-damp skin. The heat in her skin radiated outwards, and for the briefest moment, she remembered being flopped in bed with Zak next to her. Both coated in sweat, the heat had been of a different variety, but still as intense.

"You're getting better, Kara, but you're still holding back."

"Holding back?" She winced and blew out a breath as she finally pushed up onto her elbows. "I can barely keep up, sir."

"Practice." Something that might have been a smile touched his lips. "And a good night's sleep."

Sleep. What she'd been avoiding, running until she ached. Kara pushed up further and used her teeth to untie her gloves. The leather was soaked in sweat and smelled rank. Or maybe that was her.

"Get a shower, then hit the racks, Starbuck." His bare hand appeared in her line of sight.

Kara grabbed it and let him haul her up, "That an order, sir?" She tossed her gloves into the bin, pleased when they both landed inside. Her arms protested the movement. Her legs felt like the overcooked noodles that passed for food most lunches on Galactica.

"If it has to be." He moved to the pile of towels and took one, rubbing the sweat from his face, then glancing back at her.

He was so different from Zak. The thought startled her in the act of bending down to grab a towel from the bench someone had left it on. The mannerisms, movements. Nothing about Adama reminded her of Zak.

"You get some sleep, Kara."

Except his concern for her well-being. She swallowed, and then licked suddenly dry lips. "Yes, sir."

When he was gone, she let her legs drop her onto the bench and contemplated her feet for a time, feeling her skin cool. Every morning, she woke up and wondered how fast she could get up and into the cockpit.

How soon she could lose herself in the stars outside Galactica.

She traded quips and jokes, mocked Tigh, played cards, drank herself into a stupor. And then did it all over again. Day in, day out.

A shiver eventually pulled her from her thoughts, and Kara shoved herself up again.

Right. A shower.

It wasn't running to forget.

It was running to remember, because every morning, she has forgotten him again.

Kara dropped her towel and headed for the showers.

-f-