Author's Note: Thanks for all the reviews! Especially those concerning my portrayal of Dee. I'm not too fond of her myself, so I'm glad to hear I succeeded in rendering her character in such a way as to make her more sympathetic.
In Hell's Despair
the turning seasons of love,
shook off counsel,
and treated your
lover with a cold disregard.
The coals of betrayal flare in your
own bare hands.
The planet is burning.
And now this intractable rage-
like a wild
- Eighty-fourth stanza of the Amarushataka
It was well into her sleep-shift when she entered Lee's room to find it empty but for his unmoving form.
If she'd expected Dee to be there, and she always did, the woman's absence didn't phase her. Three weeks had come and gone since she'd last met Lee's wife in this place and it was nothing but paranoia that made her shoulders tight and her gut tense in anticipation of conflict whenever she came here. The Lt. was reliable, conscientious even, in that she made her visits in the morning, always in the morning, leaving the nights open to her rival.
It was a small gesture Kara hated to acknowledge, didn't know how to acknowledge, yet a gesture of which she was nonetheless grateful. Though some part of her chafed that Dee should have any claim to be here at all. That Dee, in fact, had far more right to these quiet solitary hours here than she did.
Her fault, she thought. Always her fault.
Nothing had changed from the night before and she couldn't say that she'd imagined the sound of her steps echoing hollowly back to her in that damnably empty space as she moved to his side.
He's not here, she thought standing over him, the presence of his absence suffocating her., He's still not here.
Her eyes traced the familiar lines of his face and she tried to breath past the weight that had been pressing down on her chest for so long now, tried to think past the aching loneliness she always felt without him.
She hated this place, this room, where one by one they came to sit by Lee's side like pious supplicants to some lost God petitioning him to return to them with their awkward mix of quiet prayers and ribald humor.
Nobody just yelled at him, she thought as she stood beside the bed, her gaze slowly ranging along the length of his prone form. Nobody just cursed and screamed at him and told him to knock it the frak off.
Probably because she was the only one who really wanted too.
She'd come here, despite her dislike of the place, despite the helplessness that twisted her guts into knots, every night for three and a half weeks. She'd come and she'd sat at his side and she'd prayed and she'd talked to him, holding one way conversations that still felt more natural than the conversations she had with the other crew members. She'd explained and cajoled and apologized and said I love you with a desperation and frequency that amazed. They were not words that came easily to her, not with him or anybody else, and sitting beside him, night after night, they'd poured from her lips in a torrent.
All of it, all of it, for nothing.
And now she didn't have anymore words, they'd dried up on her because really, what was left to say?
Well, she supposed, you could always fall back on the basics.
"You're an idiot Lee Adama. A twisted, emotionally frakked idiot, with no apparent concern for anybody but yourself !"
There was still no response, but it made her feel better, relieved some of that unbearable pressure weighing on her chest and she continued almost without realizing it.," Three and a half weeks of thisMajor. Three of those I've spent fielding dirty looks because the old man stepped in and ordered your wife to work so I could sit in her place. Three weeks," the words hissed through her clenched teeth as she leaned over him, close enough for their breath to mingle., "of sitting here in this tomb spilling my bleeding heart out to the empty air while you lay there on your ass and breath."
Nothing. Still nothing.
But she was mad now, good and mad, and that was okay because if she let it get big enough it might just smother all that fear lurking right behind it.
"There is nothing, nothing wrong with you and I'm getting a little played out on this game.," she shoved away from the bed then, kicking the chair they always kept beside him across the room as she went.," What the Hell do you think you're playing at anyway? You think lying there, pretending to die, is gonna change anything? You think I'm gonna sit here and make promises I have no intention of keeping just so you'll wake up?," She was afraid, terribly afraid that if she just said the words, the ones he wanted so much more than her I love you's this would be over. That he'd open his eyes and there'd be no more waiting through the night. No more suffocating under the burden of his absence.
And she couldn't say them.
She'd said other words, made promises before the Gods that couldn't be forgotten or erased.
She was trapped. Trapped by her stupidity and her pride. Trapped by her fear. And Lee was lost to her. He'd moved so far beyond her reach that he might as well have died. There was nothing of him in this room.
"Damn it Lee. Damn it.," she snarled, dragging her fingers through her short hair, scouring her scalp with nails that had grown too long for convenience or practicality .," I'm can't lose you."
Her voice broke then and with a snarl she whirled, slamming her fist into the bulkhead just above his head.
Then she stood there, panting, barely registering the pain in her hand which would later prove to be broken.
" I can't lose you.," she repeated.," I can't."
Gaeta grunted when he hit the mat, the breath forced from his lungs by the strength of the impact.
Watching him lay there on his back, trying to catch his breath and get up as Starbuck stood over him sneering and radiating menace, Sharon was careful to keep her face tightly composed in a serene and unreadable mask.
Starbuck was worse...but no, that wasn't right. Starbuck was a wild and unfettered Fighter Pilot whose personal relationship with discipline was nodding at best; a complicated and talented soul who, while confrontational to the extreme, was never cruel. Starbuck was not, could never be, a bully.
She was looking at Kara, stripped down to the last vestiges of herself, toeing the very fine and frayed line of total breakdown. She'd come close to that line after returning from New Caprica, when the wounds of her captivity had still been fresh and bleeding, but though she'd danced along that edge she'd still been able to pull herself back.
That would never happen now., Sharon realized. Not with Lee lying in that bed and no one sure if he was ever getting out of it.
And Kara, wonderful, reckless, fragile Kara even less sure than anyone else.
Geata gained his feet, wincing as he straightened his shoulders and moved into the stance Kara had instructed him to use before shattering his defenses and probably bruising his ribs. His expression was grim as he nodded at his instructor, indicating his willingness to continue his lesson.
Pride, she thought, will be the downfall of us all.
Then, without stopping to think about what she was doing Sharon strode on to the mat, inserting herself with a casual authority between the combatants.
Kara eyed her with a dismissive contempt which was meant to insult and enrage and accomplished neither of those goals.
"This lesson's not over yet.," There was a light in the other woman's eyes as she said it, something that bespoke the need for battle, for blood, and a challenge yet to be found.
"Yes it is.," she replied, her voice calm, even, giving no evidence of the storm quietly seething beneath her relatively tranquil exterior., "Gaeta," she poke over her shoulder, not quite daring to take her eyes away from Kara.," Move away."
Wisely he did so, without a word of question or protest, and Sharon was only a little surprised that he left the room altogether instead of taking up a position at the edge of the mat.
"You overstep yourself."
Sharon shoved her, hard and quick, not bothering to pull the move, and Kara stumbled back a look of shock and quickly developing rage moving across her features.
"A lesson is intended to teach, not to bully and bruise.," she bit off every word, watching Kara as she gathered herself for the attack, unfortunately aware of the audience gathered at the edge of the mat.," But if you want a fight Kara, I'm standing right here."
Without a sound the fighter pilot moved into the attack, and Sharon was only surprised she'd managed to hold herself back as long as she had.
Kara was a ruthless and instinctive brawler, those instincts all the sharper for the diamond edge of her military training; her blows, even when rage pumped through her veins and darkened her vision, were never wild and rarely missed what she'd aimed for.
And Sharon knew this, had seen it often enough to understand that you could never predict the woman's moves, never anticipate what form her attack would take.
She didn't intend to try.
It would be a mistake that would have her on her ass in less than five and which would probably end with their acting CAG spending all her free time in the brig.
Reaction.The speed and strength inherent in her design gave her just enough of an edge in her reaction time that Kara always managed to swing where she had been . Then, as her frustration began to have a visible effect on her movements, Sharon almost casually brushed aside the casted arm Kara intended to bludgeon her with, then caught the other fist on the upswing. In a move those watching would describe as weirdly graceful she twisted that arm behind her fellow Pilot's back , and, in a complicated move no one else on the Galactica could've pulled off, flipped her backwards on to the floor.
Predictably she tried to rise and Sharon shoved her back down with her booted foot, holding her there.
Her gaze snapped to the spectators, of which there were more than there had been and who clearly couldn't decide whether or not they wanted to be there just then.
"Scatter!," she snapped and they jumped and hurried away, not even muttering amongst themselves.
That would come later, she knew, when neither she nor Kara were close enough to overhear.
On the floor Kara was trying to shove her foot away, and failing miserably as she snarled curses and hurled derogatory comments at her.
Sure that the room was there's, Sharon lifted her foot.
With a speed she never would have credited Kara moved to sweep her legs out from under her, screaming with unarticulated rage as she danced out of her reach, then let her momentum carry her to her feet and into a quick and brutal flurry of blows.
Sharon ignored those that landed, stepped inside of Kara's guard and swung.
Once, twice, to the solar plexus.
A harsh, and she hoped, insulting backhand to the face.
Then she swept Kara's legs out from under her, taking no satisfaction as the woman gasped back the wind she'd lost.
As Kara's breathing eased she knelt down beside her, contented with the small trickle of blood at her lip and the simple fact that she stayed down.
"Sometimes, I think of how much simpler, how much easier, everything would be if I were only a Cylon..," she commented, almost absently, though the statement was as deliberate as anything she had ever done.
The words, spoken in what was almost a whisper, fixed Kara's attention as almost nothing else could have done. She caught the look of startlement and disbelief that passed across her face, read the questions there and sighed as she continued.," All this shit between people is so confused, so disorganized that it's a wonder anything ever comes out right."
She thought of Dee then, and what she'd thought of her yesterday and didn't today, thought of the fierce pride which she now bore for the woman who'd exceed her every expectation.
And focused on the woman before her. The woman who never met anyone's expectations and often exceeded them. Strange, that of the two Dee should, at the last, prove the stronger of the two in this, in anything. And she had done just that; it took the rarest of strengths to not only face your mistakes but, having done that, move to correct them.
Whatever the cost to herself.
" It's not Gaetea's fault that Lee's lying in that bed Kara. It's not anyone's fault but Lee's.," Not against her expectations the woman moved to get up, and she shoved her back to the mat with enough force to bruise., "You can't fix this by beating the pulp out of everyone you come into contact with anymore than Lee could fix what Leoben did to you on New Caprica by using the probe virus to wipe out every Cylon in existence."
Panting Kara glared at her, her tongue tasting the blood at her lip.," You don't know what you're talking about."
"Of course not. After all, I wouldn't know anything about wanting what you're not supposed to."
She waited for a reply, something sharp and dismissive; something meant to cut, but Kara lay there, searching her face and said nothing.
Almost conversationally Sharon offered, " It wasn't easy, you know, standing against the world. "
"It's kinda fun actually.," Kara smiled when she said it, apparently oblivious to the cut in her lip.
"When it doesn't matter.,"she agreed, then thought And when it does it's terrifying.," We both had choices to make Kara. I made the right one."
She didn't need to say the rest, to actually give voice to the fact that Kara had knowingly, deliberately, made a choice that had shattered the lives of no less than four people, her own included. ," It would have been easier if I had made the wrong one. I wouldn't have had to spend all those months in a cell and almost been raped. Or face the ridicule and oh so clever remarks of everyone around me. And no one would ever have told me my child was dead. But it would still have been the wrong choice."
"I made vows...," Kara started, her voice defiant, her eyes sad, haunted.
"Which were untrue even as they fell from your lips!," she snapped, understanding Kara well enough to know that she often dealt better with confrontation than empathy.," What would make you think your Gods wouldn't know that Kara? Wouldn't know that you lied to them as easily as you lied to yourself and reject those vows? Why would they want lies, from you or anyone else?"
Here eyes widened, her breath came in ragged, harsh gasps, and Sharon wondered if she'd pushed to hard even as she prepared to push even harder.
"Lee might wake up and he might not.," Kara flinched at her words and she ignored her," If he doesn't you'll live without him, just like you would have on New Caprica. But what if he wakes up Kara? What then?," Kara closed her eyes then and she reached out and slapped her, almost a love tap compared to the blow she'd delivered only moments ago, and her eyes snapped open again.," Dee's divorcing Lee, you've left Sam and can't expect him to wait forever for you to change your mind."
"Sam loves me."
"Love withers and dies when abused and ignored."
"I love him."
With a heavy dose of disbelief she arched an eyebrow.," You love him. ," Kara nodded, though she hadn't made it a question.," You don't get to have both Kara. It doesn't work that way. And if you don't make a choice, once and for all, you won't have a choice tomake. You can't expect them to wait forever. To share you between them like some kind of favored plaything. So, the question remains; if, if Lee wakes up, what then?"
Later that night Kara sat at Lee's side, Sharon's words echoing through her mind.
What if Lee wakes up?, she'd said, What then?
For the first time since the night she'd lain beside Zak, unable to sleep for the knowledge that she was very much in love with his too perfect brother, she didn't know.
Even if he lived she could lose him, would lose him, if she chose Sam. Too much had passed between them even for their friendship to survive, nothing would remain for them but silence and duty.
What would she do?
Gods, what would she do?
Overwhelmed, she lay her head against the side of his bed and wept for all that was lost, for all that would be lost.